Thursday, January 31, 2008

Quebec's Ice Hotel

The end of January has finally arrived and winter is about to remind us that it is not over by a long shot. We are preparing for a big storm arriving from Texas, of all places. I prefer winter storms from the arctic with cold, dry north-west winds. The storms from the south usually have nasty east winds that are damp and biting and they often include freezing rain along with the snowfall.

I had some interesting comments on the Ice Fishing post and once again thank Andre for allowing me to use his photos. Mouse, who is living in France, wrote about her experience of ice fishing on a Finnish lake, complete with reindeer skins for warmth.

Ice bed

She reminded me of a very unique hotel near Quebec City in Sainte Catherine de la Jacques Cartier. It has recently opened for the 2008 season, and if you have not had enough cold yet, you may want to book a visit before it melts in April! Here is a description from the site Unusual Hotels of the World.

Since 2001, the Ice Hotel has become an unparalleled and world-famous winter experience. It takes 5 weeks, 500 tons of ice, and 15,000 tons of snow to craft the Ice Hotel with its ceilings as high as 18 feet, walls covered with original artwork and furniture carved from ice blocks. The Ice Hotel has many rooms and theme suites, a magnificent chapel, the astonishing N'ice Club reception room and nightclub, decorative fireplaces, a Nordic-style relaxation space complete with 3 hot tubs and 1 sauna, and the famous ICE BAR, where cocktails are served in special ICE glasses.

Bar and Disco

Etolane is a Flickr member who has a magnificent collection of photographs of this hotel including a group taken this month at the grand opening of the 2008 season. I have included three of them here. If you are planning on coming to the Quebec Winter Carnival (which opens tomorrow), you may want to pay a visit to Hotel de Glace Quebec , even if you don't stay the night.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thoughts on another birthday

A long, long time ago in a country far away....
Before email and Facebook and YouTube and Messenger...

My father sent this telegram to Canada announcing my arrival.

Today I will receive more birthday greetings on Facebook than from Canada Post. My family will be able to communicate with me quickly, easily and relatively inexpensively from anywhere in the world.
While my birthdays are no longer greeted with the enthusiasm of my four-year-old self, I am thankful for good health, for family and friends and another year to live and learn and love.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ice Fishing

Ice Fishing on Lake Simcoe, (photo by Andre)
Click to enlarge the view of this all-Canadian fisherman!

I visited my daughter this past weekend and on the 90 minute drive to her place passed a man-made lake and conservation area where a river has been dammed. The sky and ground blended together as light snow fell and a mist added to the featureless landscape. Out on the lake were groups of people, some in small huts, others huddled over small holes as they fished through the ice. The weather has been quite cold for over a week, but we had a complete thaw earlier this month. I doubt I would have trusted the surface to be thick enough to support a crowd.

Ice fishing near a dam on the Thames River, Ontario

When I returned home yesterday, I noticed a co-worker and friend of my husband had posted some pictures of his weekend on his Flickr site. Andre is an avid fisherman and enjoys photography too. I emailed him and asked if I could feature some of his pictures in this post. He replied,

"Hi Ruth. Feel free to use any pictures you find useful in your blog. If you have any questions concerning ice fishing or its culture (we are a different breed) I would be glad to be of help."

A different breed indeed! That comment made me chuckle. Winter fishing is not for everyone.

Inside Andre's Hut

Andre wrote again, "
We went to Lake Simcoe near a small town of Lefroy. The ice was about 5 to 6 inches thick. We were over about 20 to 25 feet of water. There was plenty of snowmobile and ATV activity on the ice. I usually try to go out every weekend from late January to the end of February. There is something about getting out in the wide open spaces of a big lake that attracts a lot of people."

Andre's Portable Ice Hut

Andre's hut is on the right and his catch is thrown on the ice in front of the zippered door. It was a good day for fishing. These huts fold down onto an attached sled for easy set up on the ice surface. Fishing can be relatively comfortable with shelters from the wind, portable heaters, food, drink and motorized transport on and off the ice if you want.

I have spent many hours in a fishing boat, but have yet to spend any time ice fishing. I like open spaces and the outdoors, but a hut would be a little confining for my taste. And those stories you hear on the news each winter about vehicles falling through ice, or ice floes breaking off from the land... Five to six inches of ice is not enough for me! But then, I cannot really judge unless I try it.

Ice Hut Village, Lake Simcoe, Ontario
(Photo by Andre)

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday Flowers: Purple and Orange

Here is another flower picture my dad took in Mexico. I wrote a Friday Flowers post last year entitled In Praise of Orange, and Dad sent me a number of unidentified orange flower pictures. I can tell you nothing about these flowers except to say they are beautiful and the scene is inviting.

So, I will talk about the words purple and orange. It is commonly said there are three words in the English language that have no words that rhyme perfectly with them. The other one is silver. Can you write a rhyming poem that has purple, orange or silver at the end of a line?

Hilary Price created a comic strip called Rhymes with Orange, playing with the singular idea that nothing rhymes with the word orange. The strips are random commentaries on the absurdities of modern life and have no recurring theme or characters. I do look forward to reading them in the daily newspaper.

Rhymes with Orange -Hilary Price

...a random end to a random and absurd week...
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

War Time Rationing

All of the countries involved in World War 2 had some kind of rationing program that affected every citizen. We received the first set of the British series Foyle's War (highly recommended) from my brother's family for Christmas. The crime series deals with everyday life in wartime England and many of the stories involved theft and black market activities involving food, fuel and munitions. RuthieJ commented on my last post saying,

"I found it especially interesting that it was actually illegal to feed birds. Makes me wonder if that situation occurred now, would I break the law?? I imagine it would have been impossible in those days to even sell birdseed don't you think?"

Britain, being an island, had big problems with supply as well as the challenges of outfitting an army. It was even illegal to sell meat for dogs. Shipping was disrupted for years and items like bananas were never seen. Canada did not experience rationing in such a stringent way. Food rationing began in January of 1942 and fuel was rationed starting in April of the same year. Sugar, tea, coffee, butter, fat and meat were rationed and other foods were often not available at all.

Mom told me that her father, being a country doctor, had a special permit for fuel and was not subject to restrictions. However, her family raised sheep for meat (she never served us lamb at home, having tired of it as a child) and were restricted in other food items. Everyone was encouraged to grow a "victory garden" and housewives were given special tips on canning and preserving by the government.

One surprising effect of rationing in Britain was that the health of the nation actually improved
as people ate a more balanced diet, less meat and fat and had more exercise. (This point system for foods was invented long before Weight Watchers started their points program!). No fuel rations were required to pedal a bicycle or to use public transit so people had to use their legs.

This calendar was issued in our city in the 1940's (Click to enlarge)
Restaurants did not serve meat two days a week and the days when coupons could be redeemed were highlighted. And recycling, from bones to aluminum and other metals to old clothing was part of the war effort at home. The slogan for the times was, ''Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make it Do and Do Without."

Many of my patients lived through the great depression and then through the Second World War, overseas or in Canada. The effects of doing without has stayed with them for a lifetime and we sometimes see them hoarding sugar packets, jam, and other left-overs from mealtime in their bureau drawers.

I would not like to see a return to enforced rationing, but in this day of environmental concern and overconsumption, we could revisit some of the lessons learned in the war years.

Do you have any family stories about war time rationing?

Mom, Uncle Bill, Grandad Devins and ? at Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Birds of War

(Click picture to enlarge)

I was looking through Grandma's birding scrapbook which she kept in the 1930's and 1940's and found this cartoon which was published in October 1939. Canada declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939 a day after it was learned that two Canadian women were on the unarmed ocean liner, SS Athenia, which had been sunk by German U-boats. Britain had declared war on Germany one week earlier.

The world has never been without conflict somewhere, but there has never been a war in my lifetime that had an impact as significant as the Great Wars had on the world of my grandparents and parents.

Grandad Devins at about age 22

My maternal grandparents were completing their medical training at the University of Toronto during the First World War and my grandfather's graduation was delayed as he joined the army reserves. I could imagine their dismay at hearing that Canada was once again at war just a short twenty years later.

The war even affected the birds. Airplanes were quite new to Canadian skies in 1939 and the cartoon above reflected the concern people felt about migrating birds sharing the same airspace as RCAF pilots. And this article below from Britain declared the House Sparrow to be Hitler's feathered friend as they ate precious crop seeds from farmers' fields and gardens. In war time Britain, feeding wild birds of any kind was against the law.

...something to think about as I go out and refill my bird feeders on this snowy morning!

Monday, January 21, 2008

12 Best Foods

January is a prime time for diets as people enter the new year wishing to shed some weight or to improve their health. I am not sure what the most popular food plan is right now but I have seen a lot of them over the years, from the Scarsdale diet, the T- Plan (lots of fiber), the F-Plan (no fat), Atkins (lots of fat), South Beach, etc, etc. Most of these food plans restricted certain foods severely with the focus on what you shouldn't eat. I admire those who can stick with a vegan diet or a raw food diet, but it can be challenging to feed a family in these restrictive ways.

Laura reviewed some food books she recently read in a post yesterday and her summaries are worth reading. Dr. Judy (Femail Doc) wrote last week about the negative effects calcium supplements can have on the cardiac health of post-menopausal women. There is no magic pill or supplement that substitutes for a well balanced diet of whole and minimally processed foods. Food preparation and mealtime should be a pleasure, not a chore that is squeezed into overly busy schedules.

I have enjoyed a cookbook I purchased a couple of years ago by Dana Jacobi called 12 Best Foods Cookbook. It is full of tasty dishes and interesting positive commentary featuring some familiar super foods (including dark chocolate!). Under each of the 12 foods, similar foods are also recommended. For instance, blueberries are highlighted, but the author also points out that other berries such as raspberries are loaded with nutrients too.

So bring on the colourful fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and real chocolate and a toast to your good health.

Here is one recipe from the book that can be made at home or assembled at most restaurant salad bars. Served with grilled salmon and a fresh berries for dessert, the meal includes most of the 12 best foods. (This recipe serves 4)

Nine-a-day Salad

1 cup broccoli,
4 green pepper rings, 4 red pepper rings
2 to 3 thin onion slices
1/2 cup black beans
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced zucchini
1 large sliced mushroom
8 whole cherry tomatoes
2 cups spinach, washed and torn
1 tbsp soynuts

2 tbsp cider vinegar, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp dried basil and oregano,
1 clove garlic chopped, 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp canola oil, salt and pepper to taste

Sunday, January 20, 2008

God, who touchest earth with beauty

God, who touchest earth with beauty,
make my heart anew;
with thy Spirit recreate me,

pure and strong and true.

Like thy springs and running waters,
make me crystal pure;

like thy rocks of towering grandeur,
make me strong and sure.

Like thy dancing waves in sunlight,
make me glad and free;

like the straightness of the pine trees
let me upright be.

Like the arching of the heavens
lift my thoughts above,

turn my dreams to noble action:

ministries of love.

God, who touchest earth with beauty,
make my heart anew;

keep me ever by the Spirit,

pure and strong and true.

Mary Susanne Edgar, 1925

Mary Susanne Edgar was a Canadian author born on May 23, 1889. She is the author of several books, one-act plays and hymns, the most famous of them being God Who Touchest Earth with Beauty
which has been translated into several languages and placed in hymnals around the world. She was the daughter of Joseph Edgar and Mary Little, from Sundridge, Ontario. In 1922 she opened a girls' camp near Sundridge on Lake Bernard, called Glen Bernard. Mary Edgar continued as the camp's director until her retirement in 1956. Her life was devoted to working with girls and camping through many local, provincial and national organizations. She was the author of many books, plays and hymns... (Wikipedia)

Mom spent many summers at Glen Bernard Camp in the 1940's as a camper and also as a leader. She shared some of her camping experiences when she visited us this Christmas and told me about Mary Edgar and her writings.

I was on call today and had to do some home care visits at the far end of our region. When I was done, I had time to walk a few kilometers on a new trail. The sun shone and it was bitterly cold, but the beauty of the day was captured in the above pictures.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Time to book that vacation?

My last few posts have been rather dreary as we stumble through the mid-winter blahs in the north. I scraped ice off my windows in the dark this morning and drove on icy roads into work, and dreamt of sun and warmth and birds and flowers. No wonder Canadian “Snowbirds” leave in droves for Florida, Arizona and other warm locations at this time of year.

So here are a couple of pictures my dad took in their yard in western Mexico. I am guessing this lovely bird is perhaps a Scott’s Oriole. (KGMom looked it up and it is a Bullock's Oriole)

My young cousin, Samuel is in Arizona for several weeks. Yesterday he posted some excellent pictures he took of another southern bird.

Now I need to go and check out Expedia…

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Crow brings Daylight

January usually has a fair number of bright and sunny days, but I have counted only two clear days this month. At least we get daylight in shades of grey, unlike those in the far north where winter darkness lasts for months.

American Crows are not a popular bird but this native species is highly intelligent and was a common subject of legends and folklore. They are striking in the winter landscape. Here is a good winter Inuit story... (source)

A long time ago when the world was first born, it was always dark in the north where the Inuit people lived.

They thought it was dark all over the world until an old crow told the them about daylight and how he had seen it on his long journeys.

The more they heard about daylight, the more the people wanted it.

"We could hunt further and for longer," they said. "We could see the polar bears coming and run before they attack us."The people begged the crow to go and bring them daylight, but he didn't want to. "It's a long way and I'm too old to fly that far," he said. But the people begged until he finally agreed to go.

He flapped his wings and launched into the dark sky, towards the east. He flew for a long time until his wings were tired. He was about to turn back when he saw the dim glow of daylight in the distance. "At last, there is daylight," said the tired crow.

As he flew towards the dim light it became brighter and brighter until the whole sky was bright and he could see for miles. The exhausted bird landed in a tree near a village, wanting to rest. It was very cold.

A daughter of the chief came to the nearby river. As she dipped her bucket in the icy water, Crow turned himself into a speck of dust and drifted down onto her fur cloak. When she walked back to her father's snow lodge, she carried him with her.

Inside the snow lodge it was warm and bright. The girl took off her cloak and the speck of dust drifted towards the chief's grandson, who was playing on the lodge floor. It floated into the child's ear and he started to cry.

"What's wrong? Why are you crying?" asked the chief, who was sitting at the fire. "Tell him you want to play with a ball of daylight," whispered the dust.

The chief wanted his favourite grandson to be happy, and told his daughter to fetch the box of daylight balls. When she opened it for him, he took out a small ball, wrapped a string around it and gave it to his grandson.

The speck of dust scratched the child's ear again, making him cry. "What's wrong, child?" asked the chief. "Tell him you want to play outside" whispered Crow. The child did so, and the chief and his daughter took him out into the snow.

As soon as they left the snow lodge, the speck of dust turned back into Crow again. He put out his claws, grasped the string on the ball of daylight and flew into the sky, heading west.

Finally he reached the land of the Inuit again and when he let go of the string, the ball dropped to the ground and shattered into tiny pieces. Light went into every home and the darkness left the sky.

All the people came from their houses. "We can see for miles! Look how blue the sky is, and the mountains in the distance! We couldn't see them before." They thanked Crow for bringing daylight to their land.

He shook his beak. "I could only carry one small ball of daylight, and it'll need to gain its strength from time to time. So you'll only have daylight for half the year."

The people said "But we're happy to have daylight for half the year! Before you brought the ball to us it was dark all the time!"

And so that is why, in the land of the Inuit in the far north, it is dark for one half of the year and light the other. The people never forgot it was Crow who brought them the gift of daylight and they take care never to hurt him - in case he decides to take it back.

The End

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


I recently watched Michael Moore's health care documentary SiCKO. Alliance Atlantis provided free admission to the movie for nurses across Canada during one week in July 2007 and my daughter who is a nurse saw it at that time. Mr. Moore is not certainly not boring and all his documentaries have been somewhat controversial.

One of the biggest criticisms of SiCKO is that while bashing the American health care system which is less than ideal, Moore white-washed the Canadian, British, French and Cuban health care systems.

We have had universal health care in Canada since 1966 and I have been employed in the system for over thirty years. Many changes have occurred in this time as more expensive equipment, tests, drugs and treatments have forced hospitals and governments to save money by cutting other services. There is a lot more scrutiny of outcomes and best practice. In the 1970's and 80's, patients stayed in hospital for two weeks after joint replacements while today the target is five days. In some larger hospitals there are efforts to reduce the inpatient stays to three days or less.

While there are some variations from province to province, approximately 70% of our health care costs are publicly funded in Canada. Dental care, prescription drugs outside the hospital, and optometry are not covered in most cases. Home Care professional services are covered but there have been significant cut backs recently in personal care support. Some areas still have long wait lists for special tests and elective surgery, but this is improving. My father-in-law waited almost a year and died before his coronary bypass surgery in 1987 but this procedure is now available in our city in a timely fashion.

We continue to lose about 10% of Canadian trained physicians and nurses to other countries, mainly the USA where higher health care salaries are available. Thousands of people in our region do not have a family physician and have to visit clinics or emergency departments for primary care. But on the whole, good health care is available to everyone and urgent conditions are generally treated promptly. There are those who would like to have the choice of paying to be treated at a privately run centre, but it is illegal to operate a facility that provides the same health care as our publicly funded centres.

The average person I see at the rehabilitation hospital where I work may have had surgery for a fracture, or have been treated in ICU or a medical/surgical unit for some acute illness. Their rehab stay averages about three months and they only pay for optional telephone and cable TV services and personal laundry if their family cannot do it. The patient wearing those hot pink casts above was in hospital for just under a year. I do think it would be a good idea if patients were presented with an invoice itemizing their cost to the system, even though they are not billed. The doctors I work with are tops! Patients get good assessments and thorough investigations whether they are a six digit wager earner or on welfare.

Today I had a physical exam by my family physician. The examination and tests were covered but I had to pay $45.00 to have a small skin lesion removed from my forehead. (If it turns out to be malignant, I will be reimbursed) Our dog had an exacerbation of his chronic liver problem last week and his examination, labs and medication cost $250.00.

It is possible to opt out of our health care system and many Old Order Mennonites do not subscribe to the government plan. As a community, they support those in physical and financial need and really operate their own health care program. I have seen OOMs receiving ICU care for acute illness or injury and they are billed for service. But our health care costs are much less than those charged in America. My mom has no health coverage in Canada. She had to visit our doctor when she was here over Christmas and her office visit and antibiotic cost less than $50.00.

The stories told in SiCKO are horrendous and I would hope that most Americans do not have to worry about their health insurer paying for their medical treatment. And it is clear that more effort needs to go into preventative health care in both United States and Canada. I think the most memorable interview in the documentary was with British politician Tony Benn. In one part he described how the National Health System in Britain came into being after World War 2. The rationale was, “If we can find money to kill people, we can find money to help people.”

Our Canadian health care system is not perfect, but I am thankful that we have it and that I can provide care within its framework.

(photo of Mennonite buggy and sleeping children taken by my father)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Open Water

Grand River and Pioneer Tower at Doon, Ontario

It is snowing tonight and the ground is bright and clean again after the messy thaw. The waterways are still running ice free and it will take an extended cold snap to freeze over the fast flowing currents. My daughter and I walked a high trail today and watched the ducks and geese hurtling down the river in the high water. Protected areas near small islands were crowded with waterfowl of all descriptions.

There are a number of municipal water treatment plants along the Grand River. In the winter the water near them generally stays open because of the treated water that is discharged in the area. These sections of the river are great for birding and our winter visitors like Buffleheads, Mergansers, and Goldeneyes as well as the usual Mallards, Canada Geese, Black Ducks, Gulls and Kingfishers feed in the warmer water. Muskrats and other water animals are frequently seen as well. In several nearby towns, sewage lagoons are good birding locations during spring and fall migration. The above photo shows geese feeding from the edge of the ice at our closest water treatment facility.

Chickadees love peanuts too

Birds continuously adapt to environmental changes caused by humans. Most of the time, we focus on change that impacts nature in a negative way. Our river is far cleaner that it was twenty or thirty years ago. When I moved to this city in 1970, it was commonly said that downstream communities drank our sewage. While the water quality of sections of the Grand River close to Lake Erie still need to be improved, pollution controls seem to be working in the right direction.

In the winter, many birds rely on our help to survive. From the water treatment plants to backyard feeding stations, woodlots and green spaces our cities can help support a healthy wildlife population.

Mourning Dove waiting for a turn at the feeder

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bald Eagles Finally!

Peter Lee (The Record)

In June 2007, the Bald Eagle was taken off the list of endangered and threatened wildlife in the USA. Most of the world's Bald Eagles live in Alaska and British Columbia but they are found in most of the North American continent.

Last winter, twelve Bald Eagles overwintered in our area, four times the number found here a decade ago. Sightings are still rare enough that the birds made the front page of the newspaper twice in a month. I have gone looking for them several times in the last six weeks with no success. Because the trail near the hospital was impassable due to flooding this week, I drove five minutes downstream to another trail that is situated on a higher bank of the river.

Three people were there using a scope and recording some data. Ever curious, I found out they were from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) and were conducting a mid-winter water bird count along the Grand River. They asked me if I wanted to see the eagles. I couldn't see them, but a mature pair were there, several hundred metres upstream sitting on a large willow tree. After viewing them through the scope, I found them easily with my binoculars and using the maximum zoom on my camera, I was able to take this blurry shot. The picture above was taken by a photographer for our local newspaper. The eagle he photographed was in the same tree as the ones I photographed and may be one of the same birds. (The MNR people told me the newspaper photographer had a very large camera!)

The group from the Ontario MNR were pleased to see a pair of Bald Eagles, the larger female sitting on the left. They are hoping the eagles will once again nest here and stay year round.

Same Eagle Perch (my photo)

Larry of the Brownstone Birding Blog suggested participating in a bird listing game called Big January in which the birder counts as many birds as possible this month. (His goal in Connecticut is 90 birds, but I doubt this is a realistic target for this area of Ontario in the winter)
Early Thursday morning, my husband awakened me at 4:30 AM because a Great Horned Owl was hooting in a tree right outside our bedroom window in the city. There is no moon this week and it was too dark to see, but its identity was unmistakable by its call. So I will count it too.

Here is my list for the first eleven days of the year...

Bald Eagle, GH Owl, Northern Shrike (all for the first time!)

Slate-coloured Junco, American Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, House Finch, Mourning Dove, Mallard Duck, Canada Goose, Bufflehead Duck, Common Merganser, Goldeneye Duck, Black Duck, Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Belted Kingfisher, Rock Pigeon, Crow, Tree Sparrow, Common Redpoll, House Sparrow :-(

That's all I can remember right now for a total of 30. But the eagles are my highlight of the month no matter what else I see.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

And There Was Light

One week ago I walked through deep snow in bright sunshine and bitterly cold temperatures at the Guelph Arboretum. That sunny day was followed by grey, damp, foggy weather as temperatures rose and the thaw started. Dawn and dusk were obscured and the noonday light was no different than the light at eight and four.

Light is essential to life and the lack of it really does have a negative effect on the mind and body. I have been reading Femail Doc's blogs, Doc of Ages and Denver doc online lately. She has a great sense of humour and her posts are always informative. In Monday's post she featured a link to The Center for Environmental Therapeutics, a site that has some quizzes designed to determine if you are a morning or night person, and whether your gloomy mood is related to SAD.

One of the quizzes determined that I am a morning person, which I already knew. However, when I go to work in the winter, I am not sure it is morning yet. Today I followed the car above with the vanity plate "Grumpee1". I wonder who has to live with Grumpee 1, 2 or 3? (Note the dwarf Grumpy in the back window of the car) I think most of the commuters today could have been described as Grumpee as the traffic crawled along. The sky was heavy and dark and strong wind gusts blew garbage across the roadways.

I was running ten minutes behind when I turned into the main hospital entrance to see a large pine tree that had just fallen and was completely blocking the roadway. If I had been on time, I may have had a tree on the roof of my vehicle. Was I even meant to come to work today? At least I had a really good excuse for being late. Two other pine trees on the hospital property blew down this morning and thankfully no one was injured.

There is no doubt in my mind that weather changes cause susceptible people to experience more pain in their joints and muscles, even though I don't think there are scientific studies to prove the point. Many of our geriatric patients suffer with depression and anxiety that may have been present for years or recently developed as a result of illness and loss. The dark, dreary days do nothing to improve their mood.

By afternoon, the winds had decreased and the skies cleared as a cold high pressure system moved in. The temperatures were still above freezing and with the heavy overnight rainfall, flooding was a problem in many parts of the region. After work I went down to the trail I often walk during my lunch break. I have marked the trail on the picture below. I have seldom seen the river so high and running so quickly.

And there was light...the sun was bright and the sound of moving water was soothing.

Grumpee is now Happee!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

January Thaw

Autumn was unseasonably warm with October temperatures as warm as August. The leaves fell from the trees far later than usual in mid-November. The first snow came the third week of November and then snowfall upon snowfall ever since. This week the temperatures are unseasonably warm again and we have had several days of grey fog as warm air hovers above the cold ground. Fall leaves were not raked before the snow came and now the bare, leaf-covered ground is once again exposed.

American poet Marge Piercy grew up in Detroit, Michigan and experienced the same winters as we do in southern Ontario. This is one of her earlier poems.

January Thaw

Six days
narrow as razors
yet wide enough
as that single bed
we slept on, tangled.

Deep enough to free fall
twined, dancing
through that huge temporary
space, wind whistling
the land turning
like the hands of a clock
the sun far below us.

Through dead winter
the chickadees are calling
as they do in spring
fe-ver, fe-ver rising,
descending sweetly.

A January thaw, country
roads turned chocolate pudding
our boots with sucking sounds
clambering over the still-
intact oak leaves
pages of an old diary
an old year
thrown off.

Marge Piercy

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Local Foods Update

Recently Harvested Kale

We have had a good six weeks of winter weather so far this season with fields and gardens covered in knee deep snow. Christmas week, my husband went to our local farmers' market and purchased this enormous head of kale for three dollars. The farmer told him the kale had been picked that day in the snow.

This highly nutritious plant is one of the oldest cultivated green vegetables and belongs to the cabbage family. It grows best in cooler climates and the taste is sweetened by frost. Once it is picked, the taste sharpens in a few days so it is best to cut the leaves from the plant as needed if you are fortunate enough to have one in your garden.

I seldom purchase kale at the grocery store as the bunches are so large and I am not sure how to cook it except for adding it to soup. Our family enjoys the taste of this vegetable, but it is hard to eat so much of it. Even with extra people around over Christmas, we could not finish all this giant kale before it spoiled. It is supposed to freeze well though.

We are enjoying plenty of local root vegetables, cabbages, brussel sprouts and storage apples right now. Today we had roasted beets, potatoes, onions and squash with fresh applesauce for dessert.

Do you cook leafy greens like kale, collards and cabbage? And what would you do with a giant kale?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Bird Therapy

I am now filling six feeders outside the windows of the therapy office and treatment room and the steady stream of feathered visitors amuse staff and patients alike. When I started work on Friday morning, a patient was waiting to alert me that the finch feeder needed attention. My co-workers took a money collection in a styrofoam cup for more bird seed and peanuts. The Chickadees and Nuthatches are the boldest and most amusing birds, while the Cardinals and Downy Woodpeckers bring the most oohs and ahhs.

Occasional hospital feeder visitors...
Blue Jay, Pine Grosbeak, Pine Siskin, Redpoll

Regular hospital feeder visitors...
Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Redpoll, Goldfinch, House Finch, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Mourning Doves

and those persistent squirrels!

The one window feeder has been a consistent squirrel target and their antics have delighted observers most of all. I was working on another floor when our social worker told me I had to come downstairs right away. A squirrel had managed to take a well aimed leap from a small branch of a nearby shrub into the window feeder. The rodent filled the feeder completely and was happily gorging on sunflower seeds.

The feeder has been moved...again.