And now for some gingerbread Easter eggs.
The lake in our town was created with the installation of a dam in the early ’60s. It acts as a reservoir for flood management of the downstream Thames River, which runs through many small towns and eventually into the big city of London (Ontario.) Yesterday when I was out driving, I noticed that the river looked full and close to spilling its banks, which is odd because that’s what the dam is supposed to prevent, so this morning I threw a few dog towels in the car and took Jack up to the lake to have a look-see. Before I show you what we found, though, I want you to see what nearly normal looks like. That’s it up there in the first photo, which was taken at the canoe launch on the last day of December 2018, so about a year ago. In summer, the water level reaches all the way to the feet of the big trees in the photo, but in winter they keep it much lower. In fact, the water level is often so low that you can walk out nearly to the centre of the lake and not get your shoes wet. Here’s Mr. V and Jack doing just that.
Except for the open water instead of ice, that’s how the lake usually looks in the winter. You can walk on it. (It’s a local haha joke)
Well, today you cannot walk on it. Not even with Jesus’ magical shoes, could you walk on it.
It’s hard not to like a milder winter, but it comes at a pretty high cost.
See that sign up there on the left post? It’s a warning that the water has bacterial contamination and is unsafe for bathing. Which means that Jack couldn’t go swimming today, because our winters aren’t cold enough for long enough to kill germs anymore.
Jack and I have seen this sign before, but never in January, and it makes me think about a few things.
My girlfriend, Janet, came by today and helped me to reorganize my closet, which turned out to be a much bigger job than I’d imagined. Jack loves his Aunt Janet, and he happily spent the afternoon lounging on the bed supervising, and asking for love and cookies. The love was lavishly showered upon him, but the cookies were harder to come by. Jack knows which pocket carries the cookies, and he shamelessly reaches out to take a sniff and give Janet his “I am a poor starving puppy. Won’t you please take pity and share the cookie in your pocket with me?” look. Janet was a Special Education teacher for many years, and she’s mostly immune to pleading, though, which confuses Jack a bit. He calls her ” Aunt hardass” sometimes, but in a sweet, I really, really love her kind of way. She really, really loves him, too, and always gives him one or two cookies so he shouldn’t complain.
Jack and I did also get out for a walk this morning and we were dismayed to see the creek has flooded its banks in the park and at the adjacent golf course. We’ve had a lot of rain recently, and flooding isn’t unusual here, but it is at this time of year. I’m used to seeing this in the early spring, not the dead of winter, but maybe this is the new normal. Thankfully, the ground isn’t frozen, or the flooding would be worse. Not so thankfully, a friend with apple trees noted that some of his trees had early buds, which could be disastrous for the many orchards in our area. I don’t like this new normal, nor does Jack. He prefers to wade in the ankle-deep creek when it’s still. This chest-deep swiftly flowing water is for young dogs and ducks in a hurry, not for Jacks and voyagers.
Meet Big Lonely Doug, one of the last old-growth trees left in Canada.
Big Lonely Doug—named after its species, the Douglas fir—stands tall among a clearing, a solitary specimen surrounded by stumps and logging debris. It soars about 230 feet high and its trunk is as big as a living room. Local conservationists estimate it to be between 750 and 1,200 years old.
Despite the region’s booming logging industry (a staggering 99 percent of the old-growth Douglas firs in British Colombia have been cut down) a logger spared Big Lonely Doug from being felled in 2012. No one is quite sure why this particular mature tree was saved. It turns out it is the second-largest Douglas fir in Canada.
Big Lonely Doug still stands tall, now a sad but majestic symbol of the disappearing old-growth forests of British Colombia, and the ongoing fight to save them.
You can visit Big lonely Doug, but you’ll have to hike the last 1.5 km to the site. He lives near Port Renfrew, B.C., and perhaps he’d like a bit of company, as long as you’re polite and respectful of his age and his home. There are more photos at the link below.
Story via: Atlas Obscura
I have realized that I did not post any of my mother’s gingerbread creations last year. At easter I simply forgot, and on Christmas, I did not use PC at all. So I am going to rectify it over the next few weeks, a few pictures at a time.
Let us start with those from easter.
Jack is not happy today. Not happy at all. We put a new shelf in my closet this afternoon, and poor Bubba was greatly inconvenienced by the whole affair. It started out badly when I emptied the closet onto my bed, which happens to be Jack’s favourite place to rest in the afternoon. He paced up and down the side of the bed, looking up at the heap and making little crying noises, asking for help. So I cleared an area and gave him a boost because he’s old and I’m soft. Jack finally settled with his head on my pillow while we got down to measuring and marking. That’s when things went south again, for Jack, because next came the whine of the electric drill. It woke him with a start and then it droned on and off unpredictably. Jack isn’t one to complain, but I could see by the set of his ears that he was annoyed. His eyes were grimly shut, and they flinched at the inner canthus with each kick of the drill. Then peace for a few minutes, and I could see Jack’s features soften until the heavy, dull thud, thud, thud of the hammer and finally a bit of swearing when the humans among us concluded that the custom cut coated metal shelf was a smidge too long. Just a smidge, but too long is too long. So then the party took a break while more tools were gathered and more swearing was said, and then the humans moved into the kitchen to use the angle grinder (FUN!) That was a new noise to Jack, and his curiosity got the best of him, and he meandered down the hallway to see what we were up to. Well, his eyes got wide at the sight of sparks flying all around us, but he didn’t utter a sound as he calmly turned right and walked into the living room. Whatever we were up to, Jack wanted no more part of it, and he flicked his tail at us as he ambled out of sight. He spent the rest of the afternoon on the carpet in front of the fire as we wrestled the shelf into place, and it must have been a real hardship for him because this evening, he is still out of sorts. Sheesh, Bubba. You didn’t even do any work.
Bright yellow flowers from Nightjar.
This week I bring you another flower that is all over the place this time of the year. Except this time it shouldn’t be. Oxalis pes-caprae, also known as sourgrass or Bermuda-buttercup, is indigenous to South Africa and an invasive species in many parts of the world. It’s beautiful nonetheless, it covers the fields in yellow and bugs seem to like it.
On our Saturday walk I saw an ermine, which was a first for me.
Yeeeees, I know the quality sucks. I only had my mobile and the camera is rubbish. I’m getting a new one (because the screen is broken beyond reasonable. I’m also getting some heavy duty cover) and this time the camera was a criterion, so hopefully the next time I stumble across interesting wildlife it will be a better quality.
The meadow is part of the cemetery. I guess that’s the part where the anonymous graves are, in that case wave hello to my grandparents. If a small animal burrowing among his ashes cannot raise grandpa from the dead then Jesus stands no chance whatsoever.
These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give a perfect and objective evaluation of anything but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty-eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.
“Zlaté české ručičky” (Golden Czech Hands) – a self-flattering saying that Czechs like to say about themselves for fairly long time. I was not able to google-fu the origin of the phrase, but one of the speculations I believe the most is that it originated during the times of the Iron Curtain.
I have already mentioned the centrally planned economy and the many negatives it has lead to. But I did not mention one of the at least somewhat positive things – the widespread ability to get the most out of whatever little there was available.
For example one of my uncles wanted to have a gramophone, but those were hard to get by. So he scraped and scrounged parts from defunct gramophones and has built a functioning one out of them. He also has built two high-quality loudspeakers for it – and they worked and sounded good for a long time. Previously he also has built a simple radio. And a bicycle from parts.
This uncle, a Ph.D. mathematician, has emigrated to USA when I was only about six years old and he took this mindset with him. He married a Korean-American woman, whom I have met in 1999 during my only visit there. One of her complaints about her husband was that she rarely gets to buy new stuff, because whenever something breaks – be it TV, vacuum, microwave or a kitchen robot – he repairs it. And indeed all these items around the house were visibly repaired.
I have this mindset too. I wanted a nice sturdy knife to take with me on forest walks, but they were expensive and hard to get by, so I have made one. I am not as handy with electronic as my uncle is, but have repurposed parts from his old radio project and used the speakers for building myself high-quality horn-speakers. And many other things.
But around here, this was not exceptional. Every man had to be a handyman, knowing a bit about electronics, plumbing, carpentry, masonry and, if you were lucky, car repair and maintenance. Because when something broke in the household, buying replacement was often not an option and getting a professional to do the job for you was not easy or fast enough. Of course, some were better at somethings than others, and a thriving black market of skills has emerged. Indeed the only way to thrive was to have a network of skilled friends or you were screwed.
Towards the end of the regime, in 1987, there emerged a TV show dedicated to this kind of “DIY” thing, named “Receptář nejen na neděli” (Recipe book not only for Sundays), whose spinoffs and follow-ups run until today under different names. There was also a periodical of the same name as the TV show, another periodical “Udělej si sám” (Do It Yourself :-)) and even one of the periodicals for children that I have previously mentioned (ABC) had sections dedicated to small crafts.
Today there is a lot of moaning about how this aspect of our culture is slowly disappearing. The availability of cheap goods on demand did lead to a decreased need to be inventive and frugal. Some of the moaning is just that – the regular moaning about the corruption of youth and the good old times – but some of it is to my mind justified. Indeed when working in Germany, I was often able to come up with creative solutions to some problems with the things I found in a drawer, exactly because that is what I was used to doing, whilst some of my colleagues were content with listing through a catalog.
I think that being poor is not a virtue, but being frugal and inventive is. The only problem that remains is how to raise inventive and frugal people when being lazy and wasteful is easier.