Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Day on the Land

Last week we took a day to attend the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo just outside of Finch, Ontario.
We drove down some narrow back roads, and were directed to park in a large field. Then we hopped
on a hay wagon for the rest of the trip over to where the tent city had been set up.

This year's IPM took up 11000 acres of prime farm land in all.

One of the ways one could get around was to ride in a wagon being pulled by horses.  The site was set up in such a way that it had access road for that sort of transportation, so that people didn't have to get out of the way on the paths where the displays were.

There were lots of things to see like old vehicles,

new tractors,


big and small and other displays.

 There was lots of farm machinery on display,

some of it was even being demonstrated. 

I found most of the interesting stuff was inside huge tents. 

But we walked all over the site and enjoyed the way things were decorated. 

We even stopped to see a square dancing tractor show.  Unfortunately we didn't time things right to see the rodeo, but we still had a great day.  We got lots of exercise and the weather could not have been better.

Next year the International Plowing Match will be held in Wellington County.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Finally Seeing the Light

In the Maritimes, lighthouses have helped to keep ships off the rocks for centuries.  Lights would warn the crew about rocks they might not have seen in the dark. Now, with a Global Positioning System (GPS), mariners know exactly where they are in all kinds of weather.  They no longer have to steer by the stars or try to figure out where they are by what lighthouse they see in the distance.  Unfortunately lighthouses are no longer needed and are being decommissioned.

For several years I have wanted to get back to Nova Scotia to do the lighthouse tour before they all vanish.  One year we got as far as New Brunswick, and ended up doing what I called the All Saints tour instead. (St Stephen, St Andrews, St George, St John, and St Martins), and another year we tried the American route, and enjoyed Vermont and New Hampshire and never did get to the coast.  We tend to head in a general direction, but if we end up discovering things along the way, that's fine. We are, after all, on vacation, and enjoying ourselves if more important than getting to a specific destination.  Last year I let the possibility of bad weather keep us from the east coast and we had a staycation instead.

This year, we did actually get to the Nova Scotia, and followed the Lighthouse Route along the South Shore.  Even though I had lived in NS as a child, I had a specific shape in my head as what a Canadian lighthouse looked like. We saw so many different varieties, I know now that there is no one shape, even in Nova Scotia.

Naturally, the people of Nova Scotia do not want to see their lighthouses disappear, so they are finding ways to preserve them. The Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society maintains a list of lighthouses on their website, including ones that are open to the public.

 I know we missed several, but here are the ones we saw:

 This is the Gilbert Cove Lighthouse.  It was also the home of the lighthouse keeper and his family. Now it's a museum.

The Cape Forchu Light Station was the most impressive site we visited. The apple core style lighthouse guards the entrance to Yarmouth harbour.  It was the last lighthouse in Nova Scotia to have a resident light keeper. It was also the first one to be taken over by a municipality. 

It has 19 acres of groomed grounds to explore.  It's so beautiful there I was inspired to paint. If you make to South Shore of Nova Scotia, don't miss this one.

We visited a Historical Acadian Village, and there was a little lighthouse there, tucked back among the trees. There were, admittedly, other things to be found there that I found more interesting. 

A lobster fisherman by the name of Olen, who works at the village during the summer, is a particular delight. We caught him demonstrating how to make gill nets by hand. He is full of interesting stories, and loves to share them.

 We visited Shag Harbour, the site of the famous UFO sighting, and found a red and white lighthouse there too.

Near Bridgewater we located the Fort Point Lighthouse Park.

Then we took some back roads to nowhere, and after a few false roads finally located another lighthouse in a very secluded area.  This one was more the iconic shape I expected to find throughout the province. 

And of course we cannot leave out the world famous lighthouse at Peggy's Cove.

On the way home, we stopped by one more on the opposite side of the province.  This one is known as  the 5 Island Lighthouse. It is situated on a 22-acre  park on the Bay of Fundy with panoramic view of the Five Islands, Minas Basin and remarkable tides. The style of this lighthouse is known as a  “Pepper Pot”.

In historic downtown Fredericton, we found another lighthouse along the St. John River. This one is known as the Lighthouse on the Green, and functions as a restaurant.

 We have always driven right past Fredericton, but this was our excuse to actually go downtown. There were other fascinating things to see in the same vicinity. the soldiers who do a little changing of the guard ceremony at city hall.

And finally, in Edmonston, we found what was more of a Blockhouse than a lighthouse, but it too stood on a rock overlooking the water.

It may have taken us years to finally do the lighthouse tour, and though there were still many we didn't see, we had a very enjoyable vacation.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

North Gower Farmer's Market

I can't believe that summer is almost over and we've hardly done any of our usual summer things. We made a point of heading to the North Gower Farmer's Market this morning. It's suppose to rain here tomorrow, so we wouldn't likely make it to the one closer to home.

One of the best reasons to go to the North Gower Farmer's Market is that you can get Frank's Buttermilk pies there.  Now, don't turn your nose up and try to tell me how much you hate buttermilk.  I wouldn't touch that stuff either, but in a pie, it's marvelously creamy and sweet. And to prove it, Frank offers samples.  One little bite will convince you to take one of these amazing treats home.

He sells plain ones, and I've had them with raspberries in them, but today we chose a blueberry one. It only costs $8.50 per pie.  You won't get a better deal for anything so delicious anywhere else. I guarantee it.

There are, of course other pies available, as well as tarts and other goodies.  I understand he also has a shop in Ottawa.

Hubby also made off with a great big date square as a morning treat. While I usually grab a butter tart (there are several varieties), today I couldn't resist a different vendor at the other end of the room that offered huge, and extremely delicious apple fritters. I can't show you those treats as we got into them before we got home, and I actually I forgot to take the camera with me. We likely shouldn't eat the buttermilk pie tonight, after pigging out early in the day, but I'm sure we won't be able to resist.

We brought home corn, and tomatoes too. This assortment of tomatoes cost me a total of $2.  I think that's pretty good as another booth was selling large single tomatoes for that much each. Apparently these are the last of the tomato crop, according to the lady I got them from.  That was rather shocking to hear. It really makes me sad for two reasons. It means the cold weather can't be far off, and it also means my own tomato crop was a total failure this year.  The plants stayed really small, and though they are now producing a few tomatoes, not even one has started to ripen yet.   I love garden fresh tomatoes, so I was really happy I got these today.

The trip was totally worth the effort and made for an enjoyable morning.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

An Artistic Endevour

Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the Gulf states. Shortly afterwards lady I know went to New Orleans a help out. There was devastation everywhere. One morning she saw something that summed up her visit. In a tree she saw a large battered birds nest, and a magnolia bud. The magnolia bud promised hope and rebirth for the city while the nest, no longer in good shape, could be rebuilt. She took a photograph so that she would remember.

When she got home, and had the photo printed, what she had was the full tree, and it was hard to even pick out the two objects that had caught her eye. This past year she mentioned what she had seen to me, and said she was going to bring me the photo, to see if I could paint a clearer representation of what she had tried to capture.

Someone kindly cropped the picture for her, so that it showed just the nest and the bud in the tree, but she was still disappointed. Magnolias bloom before their leaves come out, but because there were other trees behind it that were fully leafed out, they created a rather cluttered background.  She brought me the cropped picture, and mentioned that maybe she might have had a better shot if she had taken the picture from the other side of the tree.

Now, I admit that I usually paint from a photograph, painting what I see.  It still amazes me that I actually agreed to see what I could do with this, when clearly I could not paint from the photo on this occasion. She assured me it was just the idea that she was after, and I took on the challenge.

First I did some searching on the internet for pictures of large nests and magnolia buds. I found several that looked like they would be of help to me. I set out to draw how I planned to fit things on the canvas. Originally I intended to do this painting in acrylic, as mistakes can be painted over, numerous times if necessary. I fully expected to need to do that.

In the beginning I still saw what was in the photograph, and pretty well laid the painting out the same way, though I exaggerated the size of the magnolia blossom.  I knew the painting would be pretty ugly if the magnolia blossom only took up a small portion of the canvas so I wasn't happy with that plan. Then I remembered her saying that she should have walked around to the other side of the tree.

In my mind, I started moving bit by bit, like I would if I were the one taking the photo. I didn't have to go to the other side of the tree. I just had to go far enough so that the magnolia was in front of nest.  Yes, that would work.  I had a new plan.  The magnolia bud was in a much better position to make the painting interesting.  The painting was no long horizontal with lots of unneeded space. I now had a vertical plan.

I tested the idea out in watercolour, just to see how it was going to look. Since I had a much clearer picture in my mind of what I wanted the finished painting to look like, I just kept going.

Today, ten years after the worst natural disaster in American history, they are still rebuilding. I thought it was the perfect time to deliver the painting to the kind lady who took the time to try to help out so many years ago.

Have you paid it forward lately?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rideau Ferry Regatta

Last weekend we attended the Rideau Ferry Regatta once again. This time we took our youngest son and his two boys with us, and planned on a picnic lunch.

There was such a large turnout that we thought we were parking a long way from where we wanted to be, and the guys didn't want to lug the chairs and food all that way. We ended up having the picnic in the car before heading down to the waterfront to watch the races.  Then we discovered that there was actually a shortcut between the car and where we wanted to sit, so they went back for the chairs after all. 

Meanwhile, as I stood waiting, two men called to me.  One was from our village. I've known him a long time and he actually gave my son his first job when he was a teenager. The other was his brother-in-law, and had gone to school with my hubby and his brothers.  We sat with them and had a nice visit.

We were not there in time to see the cardboard boat race, but I did locate the one decorated by the children from my village.  It was in far better shape than some of the others.

My youngest grandson decided it was time for a swim.

But he had to get out of the water when the races were underway.

We had to explain to him that it is possible for powerboats to lose control during the races and that it's much safer to watch from dry land.

Kids will only be amused by intermittent races for just so long and then you have to find something else to interest them. We went to see what else was going on at the site.

We discovered that teams of four could pay $120 and build a canoe on Saturday and race it on Sunday.  All materials and instructions are provided. Several teams were busy with the construction while we were there.

Better than that, as far as the kids were concerned, was that they were allowed to build and decorate a boat of their own, for free. There were three varieties of boats to choose from: a tugboat, a sailboat, and a race boat. Well, we were at a boat race, so they both chose race boats and happily set out to each deck theirs out in their own way, along with several other kids doing the same thing.

This kind of work takes great concentration.

Someone was really happy to have been able to make a boat that day.

I really enjoyed my day with family, and I always enjoy this event.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Apple Pie Tree

People laugh when I mention my apple pie tree.

Pies don't grow on trees, I'm told, but every year, this tree throws apples at me until I'm compelled to get busy creating pies and apple sauce for the coming winter.

Every morning I go out and pick up the windfalls. It used to be, if I didn't get out there quickly enough, the wasps, slugs, and ants would destroy them.  One year the crows got in on the action. They would peck at the apples in the tree, until they fell. Then instead of going down and working on their  harvest, they would just move over to another good apple and start pecking holes in that too.

This year, sadly, I have seen no wasps near the apples at all.  And no slugs either.  There have been a few ants, but not as many as I'd expect. Thankfully the crows have moved to another neighbourhood.  I think the squirrels have taken over the job of knocking the apples out of the tree.  I see scraping marks on the skin of many apples, like the skin was too slippery for their teeth to sink into.  Other apples are just chewed on one side, and sometimes even carried towards the trees that line the property.

My tree has not been sprayed in many years, so the apples are not the best. From each basket of usable apples

I get a big pile of peelings

and one pot of apples

that becomes one fabulous crustless apple pie.

While gathering that one basket of apples, I also pick up the rest of the unusable windfalls, which go to the local landfill compost site.

I have offered them to hunters for the deer, but it's too early yet.  Perhaps someone with horses would like them.

I have just baked the first pie of the season. Now I will begin my yearly ritual. I will be busy for an hour each day peeling and chopping another basket full. I will make pies to stack up in one corner of the freezer.

The apples are cooked in the pot until they are tender, but still holding their shape. If I leave them on the stove too long, then I have applesauce. That's fine too. 

One of the reasons I make crustless pies is that they take up so much less room in the freezer.  I just line the pie plate with plastic wrap, pour in the cooled filling, and secure the plastic over the top before popping it into the freezer.  Once frozen, the pies are removed from the pie plates and wrapped in foil. This allows me to keep them until the next crop arrives, if necessary.....which is a good thing since I seem to have a few leftover at this point.  I just put a crumble topping on and bake from the frozen state and they taste just like the fresh ones.

I could have, and probably should have been processing more apples instead of telling you about it.  I now have three baskets ahead of me, and still have not picked up the apples that dropped overnight. Most of the year this is just an apple tree. Right now, it's my apple pie tree, even if it does need some help from me.

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.