Jack’s Walk

©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack and I ran into a couple of big, beautiful horses today. It’s maple syrup season and this farm hosts a pancake and syrup breakfast during the month of March. This team are here every year to give wagon rides to anyone who wants to bump up and down a country road full of potholes and slush. What fun! I normally try to come late enough to miss all the fuss and foofaraw, but our timing was a bit off today. Jack barked like a fool at them from the car until they were far enough down the road to let him loose. He jumped out, watched them for half a second, gave one final woof and then ran into the woods to chase after the newly emerging spring smells. Each new bare patch of land requires very careful sniffing and Jack takes this job seriously. Some places require an extra bit of pee which Jack is always happy to provide. I always know the important places, though, because Jack will pee, turn around and lift his other leg to pee again and then turn back for one final squirt. The triple pee is always done with great seriousness, but it’s only half of the ritual. Next, the boy will dig in his back feet and rake up oodles of debris and mud as he stretches his legs way out behind him before giving a final snort and moving on. I wish I spoke urine.

Jack’s Walk

It’s maple sugar season ©voyager, all rights reserved

Bubba and I thought we’d check out our wee forest today and we were pleased to see that maple syrup season is in full swing. There’s a farm adjacent to our woods that’s full of sugar maples and they process the syrup the old-fashioned way, with pails to collect the sap and an old-fashioned sugar shack where they boil it down over a wood fire. The ratio is 14 litres of sap gives you 1 litre of syrup. Jack has spent a lot of time checking out the farm and those maple trees and I’d warrant a guess that he’s peed on many, maybe even most, of the trees that are tapped. That’s why we call this farm’s maple syrup “Jack Juice.”

Tap, tap, tap ©voyager, all rights reserved

Mmm…©voyager, all rights reserved

Full Fish Ahead: Part 1

Welcome to a brand new series here at Affinity penned by Avalus who’s going to take us through the process of setting up a new aquarium and talk fishkeeping in general.

Let’s begin with the start. I found this big piece of gnarly wood in a shop in early December 2018 when I helped a friend shopping for (and carry) cat-equipment. It just had beautiful depth to it so I just bought it, as I had an idea for a new fishtank and remembered having an old tank in my parents’ attic. In January I picked up the tank from my parents, where it sat for 3 years or so. [Read more…]

Jack’s Walk

At the park, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Woo Hoo! It’s +13º C today and there is melting happening. There’s also a light drizzle that’s helping the melting along and already I can see the brown earthy edges of the lawns. The ice on the sidewalks is breaking up and there is a steady stream of water running down the street to the sewers. It’s wonderful. Really wonderful. Why, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s  finally Spring. At least until Saturday, that is, when it’s supposed to plummet down to zero and stay there for a week. I won’t think about that today, though. Today I’m just going to enjoy wearing my spring coat and watching Jack get muddy.

Jack’s Walk

Waiting for spring ©voyager, all rights reserved

On thin ice, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack and I took ourselves to our local park today and discovered that we’re not the only creatures waiting for spring. There is a paddling of ducks (I looked that up!) that is unable to paddle. The pond is still covered in ice and the river that runs through it is flowing fast and high. Not really friendly water for smallish birds. These ducks don’t migrate. They live at the park all year and are fed by a keeper in winter. These two had been sitting in the parking looking glum, but they took to the ice when they saw Jack. Sorry little ducks, stay safe.

The weather is due to change tomorrow with a promise of temps around +13º C. That sounds too good to be true, but I’ll be happy with any temp on the plus side of the scale. I’ll even happily take the rain that’s due to come with the warmer air. I’m ready for the season of mud so bring it on.

Jack’s Walk

Bon chance, mes amis ©voyager, all rights reserved

Jack and I went to the lake this morning and for the first time all winter we saw ice fishermen.  Normally we see a few ragged huts that stay on the ice all winter, but for some reason this year they were absent. Our little lake is full of bass and pike and in the winter the conservation authority lowers the level of the water by about half which concentrates the fish into the deep center of the water. I think that’s a bit unfair to the fish, but it does make sitting in the cold and watching a hole in the ice more exciting. These chaps were in good humour and full of optimism and they even took a few minutes to play with Jack before heading out to try their luck.


Tree Tuesday

The world is full of interesting trees. This for example is the Jabuticaba Tree, or the Brazilian Grape Tree, from South America and those growths on its trunk are fruits. The tree is mainly found in southern Brazil in the Sao Paulo and Minus Gerais regions, but also grows in areas of Paraguay and Argentina.

The fruit itself is a small and round, about 3 to 4 cm in diameter, with one to four large seeds, a thick, deep purple colored skin and a sweet, white or rosy pink gelatinous flesh. Naturally the tree may flower and fruit only once or twice a year, but when continuously irrigated it flowers frequently, and fresh fruit can be available year round in tropical regions. During Jabuticaba season in Minas Gerais, thousands of street vendors sell fresh Jabuticaba in small net bags, and the sidewalks and streets are stained the same deep purple by discarded Jabuticaba skins.

Jabuticaba is largely eaten fresh, but because the fruit starts to ferment just 3-4 days after harvest, they are often used to make jams, tarts, strong wines, and liqueurs. Due to the extremely short shelf-life, fresh Jabuticaba fruit is very rare in markets outside of areas of cultivation. The fruit also has many medicinal uses. Traditionally, an astringent decoction of the sun-dried skins has been used as a treatment for hemoptysis, asthma, diarrhoea, and gargled for chronic inflammation of the tonsils. It also has several potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory anti-cancer compounds.

The full story is at Amusingplanet.com.

Jack’s Walk

Nest box, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Well, it’s still the deep of winter around here and the forecast isn’t very hopeful. We’re due for snow tomorrow, rain on Sunday and temps swinging up and down for the next week. Until spring finally decides to appear Jack and I are stuck with snow and ice, but the river path is well trodden, not too slippery and a fairly gentle walk. On the south side of the river we discovered nesting boxes hanging on many of the trees and this one poor nest stuck on a stump. I hope it’s waiting to be hung higher because it looks like a downright poor location for a bird family to occupy. Seems to me that cats and snakes and most other bird hunters could just climb right in. I’ll keep my eye on it and once the snow is gone I’ll bring a hammer and nail (and ladder – I’m short) and hang it higher myself. You know what they say in real estate…location, location, location.

International Women’s Day

March 8 is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter.

A balanced world is a better world. How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world?
Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

There are events worldwide to celebrate the day and I encourage you to check the site International Women’s Day to see what’s happening in your area. They have a search feature by country and city so plug-in and see what’s up. The site also has a wealth of resources and they’re hosting an international photo competition.

The world is still a dangerous place for women and there is much work to be done before that will change. International Women’s Day is a chance for us all to stand up and say we want a better world; a world where women are paid on parity with men, where access to birth control and abortion services are freely available, where rape is regarded as violent assault and no woman ever is accused of “asking for it.” Every woman I know has a story of inequality or harassment or worse. Let’s change that so that the stories of the next generation reflect a world where people are judged by the content of their character, not the content of their underpants.

Jack’s Walk

Is that snow smiling at me? ©voyager, all rights reserved

Today Jack and I went to the non-beaver side of the river. We haven’t come here very often this winter and I thought the change might help overcome the ennui that’s set in. Jack certainly enjoyed himself, but he didn’t want to go swimming. That’s probably a normal attitude for a dog in winter, but Jack has always loved cold water swimming. I’ve seen him floating down the river surrounded by ice with a look of pure bliss on his face. Not this year, though. Thinking back, he’s only gone in the water once or twice and not for very long. I’ve noticed changes at home, too. Jack sits by the fire more often and he’s started worming his way under the covers in bed. I know it’s his age. He’s 11 now and entering his senior years and like most old people he doesn’t run as hot. He still enjoys the snow, though, and I hope that never changes. It’s Jack who taught me to see the beauty of winter and the pleasure of snow and today his antics  helped me find something to smile about. Take that ennui!