Friday, May 31, 2024

Geese and Green

On Wednesday, this guy managed to have a back spasm while helping Sue to do a little garden work. Two days later, I am not doing badly compared to some episodes that have plagued me in the past. I'm getting around well enough once I am up, but getting up and down with some ease will take a few more days.

Consequently, we were taking it easy yesterday and decided to take a lunch to the park. The normal lunch these days is to share a toasted turkey bacon club sandwich from Tim Hortons along with large coffees and apple fritters. It was breezy enough that we ate in the car, pretty well adjacent to this ↓ bench, which we claimed after our little lunch.

The park was wearing lush, spring green, and the geese families were there in abundance. There were at least five broods in the next photo although I don't expect that you can see them all at this distance and resolution. And some families had already hit the water when they spotted a dog. 

We only spent about twenty minutes finishing our coffee because the wind was up a fair bit. Of course, we took our usual selfie in which I look like a sap.

As we were sitting there, a surprising thing happened. You probably know how the geese usually move off when people or dogs approach, but this family walked right in front of us without a care in the world.

Of course, Sue did her usual composite.

If think this was our first bench sitting of the season. Hopefully, we will repeat the visit on a few more occasions as the season transpires. Maybe we'll bring our comfy chairs and perhaps a book and/or music.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Squatters' Rights

We sit in our comfy chairs, and turn the tv on at supper. If I look to my left, I can see a small patch of fence beyond the back, patio doors. What I have been seeing lately are starlings. They sit on the fence with their beaks full of nesting material. They look up and eventually fly toward the sky.

Except it isn't the sky to which they fly but to our eaves.

They've removed the vent cover up there and are happily building a nest inside the covered eaves. I suppose that weather had loosened the vent, and the birds finished the job, for we found the vent screen on our deck  

We've called a roofer guy. He will come and clean it out and install a new cover once our fine-feathered friends have raised their young and vacated the premises.

The cost will be $200, but nobody in this house is going to ascend two-storeys on a precarious ladder to do the job. For my part, I have a wonky foot and have trouble ascending even a rung or two on a stepladder. Besides, I am not a height-loving dude.

Anyway, I got the pics at full zoom, through glass, all the way from my chair. They still had to be cropped mightily, but I like them, especially the next one, which is also the final one for today.

Kinda cute, eh?

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Cheap and Easy Crossing

In 1971, we moved to Sarnia in southwestern Ontario, where I would begin my teaching career. The St Clair river was all that separated us from Port Huron, Michigan. 

Sarnia (bottom) and Port Huron (top)

Within days, new acquaintances took us over to Port Huron. They introduced us to London Dairy where they served huge dishes of ice cream for about a buck. I used to order the Idiots Delight, which, according to my students, suited me well. I think the dish consisted of 4 scoops of ice cream plus a little of this and that, but I can't recall the particulars, except to say that it was rather filling.

It was easy to cross over the border in those days. We'd pay the 50₵ toll (or 30₵ if we had pre-purchased a book of tickets). When we pulled up to customs, it was almost a matter of just saying hello, answering a question or two, and being waved on. That freedom lasted for 20 years, and then 911 happened. First reports were that the hijackers had crossed from Canada. Those reports were erroneous, but the border crossing has been ever more difficult since then. We needed better ID and had to answer more questions. The extra time spent at the border plus the increased fares, made it no longer worth the effort for little trips, and we stopped bothering to visit Port Huron.

Now, let us cast our minds back to the 70s once again. Aside from ice cream, we'd mainly cross to gas up.

Yeah, 22.9₵ just about what a gallon cost back then. In fact, we tried to keep it down to 20₵/gallon if possible. At the time, we would have paid at least 50₵ in Sarnia, so the crossing was worth it. An added bonus was that the CDN$ was worth more than the American, so the currency exchange worked in our favour. Of course it hasn't been that way since then; the exchange rate became very high and, most certainly, not in our favour.

Since Canada went metric, we now fill up in litres, but when I convert, I figure we are paying about $6 per gallon. That a long way from 20₵, but it has been 53 years. I was young then, and now I am not 

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

First Since 2022

We were both uncertain about how we would fare, but it was time to try.

Due to health issues, we didn’t ride the bikes at all last year. At this very time last May, I was spending my first of three weeks with a catheter. What fun! I had already had one prostate surgery in February and had been catheterized for a week back then, but in May 2023, I was waiting to do it all over again. 

But let's get back to bike ride.

We were willing but apprehensive. How would I fare steering the bike with my rotator cuff issues? How would our bodies cope in general after a two year layoff with us well into the second half of our seventies? Would we even remember how to ride our bikes?

Well, to deal with the last question first, what they say about never forgetting how to ride a bike is true. Once you learn, you never forget. I learned almost 70 years ago, but this old codger can still do it.

The plan was to take it easy. We had decided that we would stick to the local streets and stay off the more demanding trail for our first ride. But we didn't do that. Instead of passing by the park we stuck our noses in, and Sue took this photo.

Somehow or other, once we were in the park we just kept going. So much for taking in easy along the wide, paved streets.

Once we were out of the woodsy part of the trail for awhile and before gong back into the next woodsy part, we took a selfie by a bench with the river in the background.

Sue implored a passerby to take another photo  

We continued along to the trail bridge that passes over the river and took a photo before turning back.

Upon our return, when we were back at the park, we sat at the bench overlooking the river foe a few restful minutes before pedalling the last few blocks to home. 

One might ascertain that we were feeling quite pleased with our old selves.

It's peaceful there, so I took a short video clip, but it didn't capture the sound much.

The roundtrip was only about 6 km which we took quite slowly, but it felt good to be able to do it. I am not sure if my shoulder was impacted more than usual. Time will tell and, whatever the case, I managed.

Of course, Sue made a composite. 

Monday, May 27, 2024

A Word Question

It's a word that I know, but I am not aware of ever having seen it in print until now. However, I noted that it was used twice in a recent novel, set in Scotland. The word stood out to me as I was reading, but I just kept reading and didn't stop to note the page at the time. Because it was a Kindle book, I was able to do a search later and find the two usages. 

From Reborn, a Rhoda MacLeod novel by Lin Anderson:

(1) Bill cursed the Gravedigger under his breath for the umpteenth time.

(ii) While he waited for the bus, he went over the events of that night for the umpteenth time.

Umpteen/umpteenth is a word that I seldom use or hear. In point of fact, I associate it with my mother, for I am not sure if I have heard anyone else use it or ever seen it written. I am sure that I have used it on rare occasions, but, frankly, it is so unusual that I wasn't even sure that there was a 'p' in the word.

So, here I am wondering if you know the word and/or if you have ever used it.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Heather's Last-Minute Visit

There had been no plans for a visit by Heather, but that changed at almost the last minute.

For those who need a refresher, Heather is Sue's youngest sister and a published author. She has written two novels featuring Ari Appleton: The Clay Girl and Cracked Pots (descriptions in the links).

One day, not long ago, Sue received a text from someone whom we know in town. This lady had been reading The Clay Girl for the book club at the library. It was only after she saw an acknowledgement to Sue in the notes that she connected the author, Heather, to Sue. Neither we nor Heather had been aware that this was occurring and that the club would soon be a meeting to discuss the book.

Quick arrangements were made, and here sits Heather, holding forth at the head of the table.

The next day, Heather and Sue met for coffee with the lady who had contacted Sue. She is an aspiring author who wanted to seek Heather’s advice on next steps  

Heather and Sue shared some sisterly time. They shopped for clothes and then went for a walk and met some doggies.

It was a treat for the sisters to have a little, almost surprise visit. Another agreeable thing for Sue was to have someone to walk with who could actually walk rather than creep along in a petty pace with a sore-footed husband.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
                            Shakespeare, Macbeth

Saturday, May 25, 2024

Caturday 62: Visiting Sabine

While Sha and the kids were off living the high life in Mexico, we made it a point to visit Sabine. They had arranged for Danica's friend to stay there overnight, but Sabine is sociable cat, so we dropped in daily.

When it was just me who was visiting her, I got lots of attention and managed the occasional selfie. Sabine doesn't stay still for long, so I would set the phone's timer and try to be in a position for a photo when it went off.

When Sue was there, Sabby didn't bother with me. The puss has good taste.

One day when I was there on my lonesome, Sabby showed interest in my iPad. I recalled having a cat game on there. While our Lacey has little interest in juvenile games, Sabine, being a typical kid,  sure does.

I bet that you would like to see her in action, and as it happens . . . 

Friday, May 24, 2024

Revisiting the Lilac Fields

Four days after my early morning visit with Nick to the lilac fields of Franktown, I took Sue down for a visit. Aside from having a pleasant experience, she could use the lilacs for her photo of the day.

It was later in the day than it was was my initial visit, and I didn't have my tripod. I pretty well knew that my photos wouldn't be as good, but of course I took some shots anyway. Why wouldn't I?

The lane that we walk down.

A clump of lilacs against a blurry background.

Sue standing along a path in a field. I used an extreme crop because the sky was not looking good in the picture.

Sue's photos follow. She presented this collage as her POTD.

One of the lane.

Finally, a photo to satisfy my hubris.


Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Contraceptive Issue

Almost at the same time, I came across two posts about contraceptive availability, one about Virginia and the other about Canada.

There was this one from MTN (click the link for the whole article..

Then, I saw this one from the Canadian government.

This was part of the article. 

“Women should have the autonomy to make their own choices about their health and their bodies. Our plan to make common contraceptives free—like birth control pills and IUDs, and even emergency contraception—will mean that, for nine million Canadian women, freedom of choice will be truly ‘free.’ And it means more Canadian women will have freedom of choice over their bodies and their lives.”

- The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

This isn't just a Canada/US thing but very much about liberals and conservatives. Canadian conservatives would not do this either; they would not be socially proactive, just economically reactive. I am sure that they will soon come out against free contraceptives. In fact, they would prefer to take away things such as access to abortion and free health care in general.

Canadians have enjoyed free doctor and hospital care from decades now, and liberals have recently provided many seniors, such as me, with dental coverage. When I think of the various benefits that Canadians enjoy, I cannot think of one that was provided by conservatives.

Upon reflection, I take it back. They do like to cut corporate taxes.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Lilac Fields Forever

On Sunday morning, my watch shook me awake at 4AM rudely waking me from a rather pleasant dream.

I had set the alarm deliberately, for Nick would pick me up at 4:50 and drive me to the lilac fields in nearby Franktown. He gets up early when the light is good. I have also risen early in the past to take photos but not recently.

Before I continue with the narrative, let me explain why I chose the watch to wake me, rather than Alexa, or my phone, or a conventional alarm. Well, who uses conventional alarms anymore? I am sure we could dig one up from somewhere, but we really don't use those kinds of clocks or radios anymore. That being said, both Alexa and Siri (phone) would make a lot of noise. They might wake Sue, but in my deafness, I might not hear them at all. My watch vibrates in addition to ringing. It is the buzzing vibrations that awaken me first. For a backup, I had set the phone as a backup for 4:05, but I was able to tell Siri to turn off all alarms before it went off.

Franktown is a little hamlet about ten minutes down the highway. It calls itself The Lilac Capital on Ontario. I'll post a blurb, below, but it is not an unwarranted claim for this little place as they have a few acres dominated by lilacs that are blooming in profusion right now. Next weekend, they will host their annual Lilac Festival, but this past weekend was glorious, indeed.

There are two main lanes. This is a photo of one of them about twenty minutes after sunrise. The sun rises fast and strongly at this time of year: especially noticeable when the sky is cloudless.

While that photo sets part of the scene, I like the next two photos better. I love the softness of the first scene while using the farm gate to anchor the image. While I would have preferred a nice lilac bush instead of brush at the bottom right, it still provided a frame for the gate. I also like the line of lilacs in the background, just above the gate. I think I made the best of the photo opportunity.

A little later, the sun had risen higher, but look at all of the lilac bushes in this field, off the main path.  Splendiferous! Nick was somewhere out of sight back there, lying on the ground and taking macros of low-lying lilacs. He has his muse, and I have mine.

For awhile I switched to my telephoto lens and tried to pick out individual lilacs along the lane. I came up with three very different photos. I love the second one and think it is print-worthy, if I were to so choose. It's the soft background that makes it special in my opinion. I was at the right distance from the flower, and the flower was the right distance from the background flowers to achieve this effect.

Here is the blurb about Franktown's from a website.

How did Franktown become Ontario’s lilac capital?

Franktown was settled as a supply stop between Richmond and Perth in 1818 by Scottish and Irish settlers who planted lilacs around their farmsteads. Over the centuries, Franktown has remained a small community. No large-scale developments have razed the land. In fact, the opposite has happened—undeveloped land has allowed the seeds and suckers to flourish unchecked. When scientists from Ottawa’s Central Experimental Farm examined the area in 2007, they found the suckering so dense that other plant species were mainly excluded.

Franktown’s lilacs aren’t just dense. Many of them are unique. Over time, naturalized hybrid species with double florets developed and became species known only to the Franktown area. A pink variety has been named Dixie (after Dixina Pierce McLellan, who once owned property along Lilac Lane). A white combination has been aptly named Franktown, while a blue variety is called Beckwith after the Township. These varieties just aren’t a local point of interest. In 2009, Franktown was honoured with the International Lilac Society’s President’s Award for protecting its unique varieties.

Monday, May 20, 2024

1 hour and 1 day late

With the forget-me-nots in full bloom, I liked the view from both the back and front upstairs windows.

Then, I decided to go out to take some pictures of blossoms that I had previously seen around town. This is when I discovered that I was an hour late and also a day late. I was an hour late because the sun had come out, and I had hoped to get flower and blossom photos in more subtle light. However, here are photos of the front garden that I took before I got in the car for more my intended drive-around. They are okay, I guess, but I think they would have been better an hour earlier.

But I was also a day late — for at least some of the blossoms that I had wanted to capture. Our next-door neighbour had a beautiful tree with pink blossoms just the day before, but on Saturday, they were spent. However, another neighbour's lilac bush was doing pretty well.

This ↓ was a slightly farther neighbour. Please ignore the messy setting; I show it for the blossoms only.

My disappointment escalated when I got to the beautiful garden at a house farther away. Their two flowering trees were also done. They had been gorgeous, and I was disappointed. I did photograph this entrance to her garden, however. Whomever the gardener is, they did well.

I drove about looking for more blossoms, but gave up in disappointment and turned toward home. Then, I passed by the curling club and had to stop. Once again, please ignore the background.

As for the neighbour's front lawn, I did give in and decided to mow it. Because the grass was so long, I set the lawnmower blades very high, so it still looked long and messy after my initial mowing. However, the owner did send someone around the next day to mow again. The best news is that they are going to sell. At least I hope that it turns out to be good news, but I know the old saying: be careful what you wish for. Fingers crossed, eh.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

Anniversary Lunch

Generations Inn was the venue of choice for our anniversary lunch. It's an repurposed building, possibly an old farmhouse, in a nice setting by the river.

The lilacs were out; I took this picture before lunch. I like how the trees provide a frame for the  lilac bush.

I like the photo but wish that I had lowered the camera just a tad to get a little more separating
between the branch and the bush. This is what happens with quick walk-by photography.
I don't take the time to notice the little details.

Later, as we were leaving, I snapped this one of the dead tree fringed by the lilac bush n the background.

Inside. we dined in the screened verandah, except they had glass over the screens because it's still early in the season. My hot wife was not amused, but it was overcast out, and I was pretty comfortable once I got settled: except for my awful chair, that is. (Sue's pic of me turned out better than mine of her.)

The server (remember when they were called waitresses or waiters?) obliged us with this photo.

After lunch we wandered down to the river, but as you can see, it was not a glorious day: overcast, much like our wedding day 55 years past. 

I think this is one of our better selfies.

Anniversary fudge being another tradition, we didn't have dessert at the restaurant but stopped for the fudge goody on the way home. Last night, the day after all of the above, we relented and ordered the usual anniversary pizza too, and it was very good.

And that's a wrap for anniversary 55. Aren't you glad that it's over?

BTW: some of you have been wondering about our long weekend when the American one is next week. It's a different holiday here: Victoria Day (in celebration of Queen Victoria's birthday, May 24 1819), and not Memorial Day. It occurs on the last Monday before May 25, For these reasons, we often refer to as May 24th holiday, even though Monday very seldom lands on the 24th.