Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
Friday Flowers: Cuttings
Penny, our Recreation Therapist at the hospital, has weekly gardening groups for patients who wish to participate. During the warm months, they work in raised beds outdoors and during the winter they prepare plants in the solarium for spring planting. (I wrote about the outdoor gardens last year in this post.)
This spindly geranium was brought indoors in the fall and has developed weak, long branches while reaching for the light over the winter months. Many leaves have died and fallen and there are no new flowers developing. It looks as if it should be added to the compost pile. But there is a chance for it to be reborn into several new, vigourous plants.
Penny and the patients have taken cuttings from last season's geraniums and planted them in soil under growing lights. The cuttings have rooted and are producing new leaves and blooms. It will be about three months until it is safe to place them outdoors and they will continue to grow over the summer before the cutting process is repeated.
Many other plants such as this Christmas cactus can be propagated in this manner. I am rooting some philodendron stems in water from a plant I started ten years ago. When it gets overgrown, the newly rooted cuttings replace the older plant. The original plant had some sentimental value and I am reminded of it each time I re-pot the new shoots.
One of our young volunteers is helping a patient iron a silk scarf she has painted. Many of our elderly patients come to us "weak and spindly" from illness coupled with a lack of social interaction. We all need to invest in the lives of other people on a regular basis. By taking a piece of ourselves and "planting" it in another person, we can propagate our experience, wisdom, caring and love. And the pruning will make us stronger and more likely to produce new growth in our own lives.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
"When one sees the tree in leaf one thinks
the beauty of the tree is in its leaves,
and then one sees the bare tree."
the patterns of clouds, the surface of water
as it ripples in the breeze....
Brunonia Barry (The Lace Reader)
Knowing that spring will return
To clothe them in green
Photos: 1. Clear skies over Guelph Lake, Ontario
2. Sunset over the Speed River, Cambridge Ontario
3. Tree at noon by the Grand River, Cambridge, Ontario
4. Common Redpoll at Riverside Park, Cambridge, Ontario
Follow this link for more Skywatch posts from around the world
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Thoughts of Love
In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast;
From the poem "Locksley Hall"
Alfred Lord Tennyson
An interesing comment from Rambling Woods...
Ruth...You caught a great photo of a mallard hen giving a revulsion nod to the mallard drake on her right. Her mate is at the front of the pack and she is giving a call and head jerk that indicates that she is not interested in those males...
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Obama Cookies, Cutting the Fat and More...
Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, Pancake Day...
Today is the day to get rid of all the fat in the house in preparation for the start of Lent tomorrow. In times past, Lent coincided with lean times at the end of winter when food, particularly eggs and meat were less available.
It is easier to fast if the cupboard is bare.
I have read that a few churches are encouraging their adherents to reduce their carbon footprint in this season leading up to Easter rather than giving up chocolate or sweets.
It is easier to do this when the economy is taking a prolonged nose-dive and jobs are being lost in large numbers.
"Cutting the fat" has more than one meaning this year. The big automakers are doing it, my employer is doing it, and many people are doing it through no choice of their own. My father emailed me an interesting article yesterday about the current economic crisis. A Financial House of Cards written by Mark Levine outlines history and attitudes that led up to the events that are now affecting the entire world. I found this comment on our society most interesting;-
People's identities were now increasingly defined by what they consumed rather than their religious beliefs or social actions.
The size of one's home, car and flat-screen TV, or the price of one's clothes, mobile phones and holidays became of paramount importance.
This attitude led to a borrowing binge that was not sustainable.
On one hand we are being encouraged to save our money, and on the other, to spend in order to boost the economy. These mixed messages are very confusing.
What do we really need? Our basic needs of food, water, clothing and shelter have enlarged to include a car, cell phone, cable TV, computers, internet and much more. One of my patients had an absolute melt down last week because she could not afford the TV hookup above her hospital bed. It didn't matter that the patient dining room has cable TV available to anyone, she felt she deserved her own unit. And she is no different than many other people, including myself. I don't care if I have TV, but I sure like my new camera and would be upset to be without high speed internet. I went to Walmart to buy two buttons the other day and walked out with $30.00 of merchandise. How did that happen? Retailers know how to display those things we think we need at the ends of aisles and around checkout counters.
For the next six weeks I have decided to make an effort to buy only what I need. I will try to stop and think before I pass money or a credit card over the counter and ask myself why I am making the purchase. I plan to keep track of the money saved and give it to a worthwhile charity. My "needs" may be hard to define at times, but this cutting of the fat before I really have to do it will undoubtedly be an interesting exercise in self control.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Winter Has My Permission to Leave
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?"
William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
Many of our worst storms come at the end of the winter season but we know the snows will not last forever. We were wondering if we could teach Dakota how to push the snow shovel, but he did not show the least bit of interest in this type of work. I think he would have been a perfect sled dog with his thick coat and love of the snow.
Walking along a trail just before the snow started to fall, I noticed that colour is beginning to appear in the bush as the sun gets stronger. The dogwood branches are red, the willows are becoming more yellow and the evergreens stand out against the blue sky.
the spring would not be so pleasant."
Sunday, February 22, 2009
A Mari usque ad Mare
A Mari usque ad Mare ("From Sea to Sea") is Canada's motto. It was derived from Psalm 72:8, which reads in Latin "Et dominabitur a mari usque ad mare, et a flumine usque ad terminos terrae," and in the King James version, "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth."
We took the standard half hour tour of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa on a busy Saturday morning last weekend. Tourists who visit from Monday to Friday are not permitted to take photographs in the building but this rule is not enforced after business hours. The building is a magnificent example of Gothic Revival architecture and is full of elements of national symbolic importance. I would love to spend half a day examining the sculptures, inscriptions and art work in the Peace Tower, parliamentary halls and rooms, and the public grounds around the hill.
I will not review the history of Parliament Hill as this link to Wikipedia does it well. I took special notice of the biblical symbolism and use of scripture, particularly in the Peace Tower. We went to the top of the tower and enjoyed the view of the city in all four directions and then walked around the Memorial Chamber which commemorates Canada's war record.
The exterior windows of the Peace Tower are inscribed as follows:
East window- He shall have dominion also from sea to sea. (Psalm 72:8)
South window- Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. (Psalm 72:1)
West window- Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)
The largest bell in the Peace Tower belfry says, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men. (Luke 2:14)
The Peace Tower Memorial Chamber has several poems and scripture selections on the walls and altar. The marble panel on the south wall is inscribed with the words of Psalm 139:8-10
Elsewhere in the building, the Cabinet Room is inscribed with, "Love justice, you that are the rulers of the earth. Aimez la justice, vous qui jugez la terre." (Song of Solomon 1:1) and the Opposition Board Room says "Fear God, Honour the king." (1 Peter 2:17)
I feel it is important to acknowledge God in matters of government. But the mixture of politics and religion promoted from some pulpits is another concern. For instance, I have seen some ugly comments in Facebook groups and on blogs from "christians" who feel strongly that Barak Obama's presidency is a big mistake. Angry criticism, disrespect and arrogant opinions in the name of God are too commonly encountered. These scripture passages encourage a different attitude toward our leaders.
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:2
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God... Romans 13:1-6
As a Christian it is my duty to pray for our government and for each leader who represents our people. I will exercise my right to vote and should participate peaceably in the democratic process we are fortunate to have in place in Canada.
I enjoy reading the prayers in the Anglican Church's Canadian Book of Common Prayer. This prayer for peace in the world reflects the perspective Christians should demonstrate toward those who have the responsibilty of governing nations.
from whom all thoughts of truth and peace proceed:
Kindle, we pray thee, in the hearts of all men
the true love of peace,
and guide with thy pure and peaceable wisdom those who take
counsel for the nations of the earth;
that in tranquility thy kingdom may go forward,
till the earth is filled with the knowledge of thy love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Friday Foliage: Jack Pine
The City of Ottawa has a publicly owned Greenbelt which consists of a 20,000-hectare expanse of land which includes wetlands, farmlands and forests. Hiking opportunities abound in the Greenbelt and the admission free trail network extends over 100 kilometers. The Greenbelt includes Stony Swamp Conservation Area, Piney Forest, and the Green’s Creek. (Source: The National Capital Greenbelt)
I visited the Greenbelt, which is situated on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, and chose the Jack Pine Trail, one of the easy trails within Stony Swamp. This area was reforested with Jack Pine trees about forty years ago. Jack Pine is a native evergreen which grows well in poor soils. It is a small, sometimes shrubby, irregularly shaped tree that can thrive in sandy or rocky locations. The cones can remain closed for many years and will open when exposed to the extreme heat of a forest fire.
The fall of their needles creates an acidic soil which is favourable for the growth of wild blueberries. The endangered Kirtland's Warbler nests only in stands of young Jack Pines and many other forest birds and animals find refuge in the shelter the trees provide.
The Jack Pine woods were not dense like some bush areas in our area of south-western Ontario. Other trees also grew in this swampy area including cedar and white birch. The most abundant mammal I noticed was the Red Squirrel. We have a few of them in our area but they were far more numerous here than the larger Grey and Black Squirrels. I heard their loud chatter and watched several high speed territorial chases.
The Jack Pine Trail is off limits for dogs. Much as I love dogs, the irresponsible behaviour of owners who allow their animals to defecate and run loose on public trails is most annoying. Spring thaw reveals the extent of this problem on the trails near our home.
Because of the thin forest cover, the absence of dogs and the generous food donations from regular visitors, White-tailed deer were very easily seen in the area. I rounded one corner and came face to face with a doe who hardly startled at my appearance. She moved aside as I walked by and then came back with another deer to enjoy the carrot pulp left by the man I described in a previous post. This same man told me about the many snakes and frogs that are found in this swamp in the spring (as well as the blackflies and mosquitoes).
And I decided that winter was the perfect season to explore these trails!
Anvilcloud, a veteran blogger, lives in the Ottawa area and has visited this trail. His pictures of the deer are really worth seeing here and here. (I particularly like the second post)
Thursday, February 19, 2009
President Obama Visits Ottawa
As we were getting ready to leave Ottawa on Monday, preparations were well underway for President Barak Obama's visit to Canada. Barricades were being erected around Parliament Hill and dozens of Canadian flags lined the walkways. This was a working visit rather than a state visit and Canadians were informed that there would be little opportunity to see the president. However, thousands lined the streets beginning at dawn for the chance to catch a glimpse of him. A busload of people from our city travelled six hours each way today in hopes of seeing their hero. By all accounts the day was a huge success. Obama waved to cheering crowds from behind bullet-proof glass in front of Parliament. On the way back to the airport, he made an unexpected stop at ByWard Market to the delight of many common citizens.
ByWard Market in downtown Ottawa is the oldest commercial and residential district in the city. It opened originally in 1848 and the current market building was constructed in 1926. The market district is home to an eclectic mixture of farmers market stalls, boutiques, galleries, cafés, pubs and clubs. It was my favourite area of the city and we visited it twice when we were in Ottawa.
Michaelle Jean in Ottawa.
And I think changes like this are a good thing.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Skywatch Over a Frozen Swamp
I enjoy visiting cities and being in crowds of people from time to time. Toronto is always interesting and our trip to New York City last year was a great experience. We mingled with many other Winterlude visitors in Ottawa and walked through several tourist areas. I was ready for bed before 10PM each night, thoroughly tired out from fresh air and exercise. But my daughters...well they are still on young adult schedules where night is for fun and morning is for sleeping in, especially on holidays.
Two hours on a trail like this leaves me feeling invigourated, unlike pavement pounding which tires me quickly. It was a good thing it was so cold as I would have been tempted to stay much longer if my hands and feet were not so numb.
More about this trail in a future post...
Follow this link for more Skywatch posts from around the world.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Celebrating Snow and Ice
We took a break for a few days and visited the city of Ottawa which is about six hours north east of our home by car. Ottawa is the second coldest national capital in the world next to Moscow, Russia but it experienced a thaw last week with rain and temperatures well above freezing. Our daughters had been anticipating the annual Winterlude festival for weeks and were most disappointed with the big melt. But February thaws do not last forever, and the long weekend was marked with clear skies, sunshine and very cold temperatures. Never go to Winterlude without your long underwear!
We spent hours outdoors from morning until night taking in the Crystal Garden at Confederation Park in Ottawa and the impressive snow sculptures across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec. In the evenings a light and sound show was followed by an outdoor concert. We watched Jim Cuddy and Roch Voisin on separate nights as they performed live in sub zero temperatures to enthusiastic crowds.
And of course, the biggest attraction was the world's largest skating rink on the Rideau Canal which features 7.8 km (4.8 miles) of ice surface. My eldest daughter skated 10 km in a round trip while I walked carefully on the ice in my winter boots. Kiosks along the route offered food, drink, souvenirs and shelters while police on ATVs and many volunteers patrolled the crowds.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
White-tailed deer were frolicking in the field in the middle of the afternoon as the snow had melted enough that they could run around freely.
Along the boardwalk a large number of birds were perched on two dead trees. We counted at least fifteen American Robins and several Cedar Waxwings. These were the same robins I saw in this park in January, ones that had decided to forego their southern migration in the fall. Our spring Robins will not return for another month or so. This day they were not huddled in the bush, but faced the sun in the open swamp.
The news this week has constant warnings about fast flowing water and warns people to stay off the ice. These foolhardy boys were on the ice, jumping up and down to test its strength and poking sticks in the open stream. There will always be people who take risks in spite of warnings and end up needing the assistance of our emergency rescue services.
The Rideau Canal in Ottawa is closed due to the thaw which is very disappointing for the Winterlude visitors who plan to attend over this coming long weekend. Cold weather is supposed to return at the end of the week and we know this is just a short break in a winter that is not over.
I am taking a break too and will be back to blogging and commenting sometime next week.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
New Toy or Tool?
Technology changes so quickly that it is hard to keep up with what it new in computers, smart phones and cameras, to name a few gadgets. I have lost track of the number of computers I have purchased in the past 15 years.
I bought a Canon Powershot S3IS a couple of years ago and added a 1.5x teleconvertor which gave me 18x optical zoom, great for closeups of birds and people at a distance. My brother bought the S5IS last year and I was impressed with the improvements in his camera compared to mine.
My husband knows I enjoy taking pictures and he encouraged me to get a DSLR and some "big glass", but I was reluctant to walk around with that much camera hanging around my neck. A 500 mm lens is quite long and expensive.
After some research, I decided to stay with a familiar camera and upgraded to a Canon Powershot SX10 IS which has a 20X optical zoom without a teleconvertor. And I am very happy with my purchase (for less than $400 cdn), which I bought with an option of return within 30 days if I didn't like it. It is not bulky, does not slow me down when I walk, and the 20X zoom is equivalent to a 550mm telephoto lens. There is no doubt that DSLRs take superior pictures, but I will stick with a point and shoot (that has lots of manual options) for now.