Sunday, May 29, 2011

Great Spring Bird Count

       Today was the day to count birds in our area. I have posted before that I have participated in winter and spring bird counts for a long time and enjoy them. Today was one of those "just right" days...clear , calm, and cool. Birds were not particularly active but there was enough to keep my interest. I saw 14 different species. One species I had never seen before but when I identified it I realized that I had heard this bird many times before. So today I officially saw a warbling vireo.

        The area that I patrol is a coulee that runs into the Red Deer river. It's old growth spruce and poplar. Unfortunately many invasive species are making their way into this coulee.The part I count in is from .5 km to 1 km wide.

      For the spring bird count we also count native plant species which are blooming. I'm not too hot on identifying plants so today I said I will take the cam,era and take pictures. This is because the count coordinator called me one time and said, "Did you really see the plant you named?" So I had to hoof it back to where I saw the plant and get more information. It was easy to identify once I was told what to look for. In that case I brought a specimen back.

     Since our spring is very late we do not have many native species in bloom.

The first bloom I saw was what I call buffalo bean Thermopsis rhombifolia. These are prairie flowers and grow well in disturbed areas .
     The next plant I found was the early blue violet violo adunca. These plants bloom very early and are very attractive. The ones I found were a patch of a bout the size of a house.

     The third blooming plant I found isn't hard to find as it's quite abundant. Saskatoon amelanchier alnifolia is again a common prairie plant found in coulees and forest edges. These plants have along history with the aboriginals and when my people came here they immediately took a liking to saskatoons. One summer my mother canned 96 quarts of saskatoons. These are known in other areas as juneberries or service berries.

           The fourth plant I had to cheat a little bit as it is only in bud This is the choke cherry prunus virginianna. Again these plants grow on stream banks and on the edges of forests or on the prairie "bluffs." Again the choke cherry has a great flavor and are used to make syrups and jellies. They have a pit and since they are small berries would be difficult to take the stone out and use the flesh . Raw choke cherries are fairly tart.

The fifth plant I found made me do lots of work to identify it. It's a plant that I should know. I think after this I will remember fairy bells(disporum trachycarpum). These plants bloom early before the trees fully leaf out. They grow in moist shady poplar or mixed woods and thickets.

     So my day was much more interesting when I took the camera to record sightings. Plants don't fly away like birds and you don't have to wait for plants as you would with birds. I a couple of weeks I will have to make another tour and show some more native species in bloom.    

Friday, May 27, 2011

I Stand up for Bleeding Hearts

        Many blogs I follow have recently posted on flowers that are in spring splendor. I certainly appreciate these posts. Most of them demonstrate excellent photography  and very knowledgeable descriptions.

        While I was working in the yard today I noticed that my bleeding heart (lamprocapnos spectabilis)was at its very best. Bleeding hearts are early and since they are large-75-100cm - are very noticeable. Bleeding hearts are native to Northern China, Korea and Japan. They are very suitable to temperate climates such as I live in. There are other names for the bleeding heart as people see other shapes in the blooms. I have only seen pink bleeding hearts so I tried to see if there are other colors. I was not successful in finding bleeding hearts in other colors. Hopefully some of my readers will be able to add some information about color. By early August the leaves have lost color and the stems become dormant. Most years my bleeding hearts are cut down before the end of August.
       So I wanted to give the humble bleeding heart some publicity because it does have a charm of its own. It also suits me to some extent as I see myself as somewhat of a bleeding heart!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Palliser Triangle.

On the Canadian prairie provinces the name John Palliser is well recognised for a recommendation he made in 1860 about the suitability of the area for agriculture. The Canadian government at that time wanted settlers to come to the prairies and begin agriculture. They had watched development further south in the United States and they wanted a piece of the action. They also wanted settlers so that the United States would not be tempted to take over the Canadian prairies. John Palliser was hired to do an exploration of the areas and make a recommendation.

        So a few days ago I was talking to a friend who is taking what is called a Palliser tour. Tours are made of the area and sites noted by Palliser are visited. This conversation reminded me of an excellent book I read a few years ago. Irene M. Spry wrote The John Palliser Expedition of Discovery. This was a great read.

      Spry researched very thoroughly and reported in great detail what these explorers did.
      John Palliser was an English  military officer. He put together a large group of experts to spend three years combing over every detail of the Canadian prairies. Botanists discovered and named as many plants as they could find. Most of the specimens were carefully preserved and shipped to England where they are to this day. Other scientists studied the weather so temperature, rainfall, and sunlight were recorded in detail. Extensive mapping of the area was done. The skies were observed on a regular basis. Animals were observed. They consulted with the aboriginals and used the aboriginals to help them in their observations and travel. They discovered a certain amount of coal.

     Most of Palliser's people were on the prairie for about three years. The story of their travel and survival is amazing. There were times when people were lost for weeks. In the dead of winter they travelled back and forth across the prairie. It took tremendous effort for them to obtain food supplies. They used pemmican
to their advantage.

      There are four areas which come together to make this story fascinating. First, I was raised on a farm so I am keenly interested in agriculture. Growing up I heard about Palliser on a regular basis. Second, I have backpacked for years and couldn't help but admire the success these people had as they lived outdoors most of the time. There were short times when they were at Ft. Edmonton or other places where they lived inside. Third, I have a great interest in western Canadian history so this is as good as it gets. Fourth, I am a naturalist so I was eager to find out what the prairie looked like before it was destroyed by the plow. I like stories that bring distant things together. This story brings together some very prominent interests of mine.

      I highly recommend Irene M. Spry's book and I hope you will take a look at it. If anybody has read this book I hope you would share your opinions with me on Hiawatha House.

       So what did John Palliser recommend? He recommended that a large portion of southern Saskatchewan and Alberta was not suitable for agriculture. The debate over the years rages on as to whether Palliser was right or wrong.

Monday, May 23, 2011

There's a First for Everything

         There's a first for everything  even if you're a senior rookie to the internet!

          Since we are taking a trip this summer we are making some arrangements now. My wife likes to plan ahead....away ahead. I'm the opposite. I make plans at the last minute. It causes some tension around here at times.

        We found a good deal for parking while away. The catch was that we had to make a reservation on the web. I have not been a user for very many years. I understand how things work. I understand that most banking is electronic. However, my wife is not at all comfortable giving out a credit card number on the net. I don't push the issue so we don't do business on the net. Well, today to take advantage of a good deal we had to break down and do business. This deal did not include a credit card number. So we filled in the necessary information and clicked on reserve and it was done.

      Now for my wife to be sure of the deal we had to print all forms. It was like magic when I went to my email account and found that the reservation was already there.

      So with much trepidation a first took place for us. A business transaction was done by us on the internet. I'm sure that many more deals will have to be done. We will be less wary and the system is quickly moving to more and more business being done on the net.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Searchin Good Time

        My daughter is getting married in July. It's an important event as I have only one daughter and she's 39 years old. So I look forward to her wedding with a certain degree of anticipation and excitement.

       I am not a shopper. I think I've said that on this blog a few times. On the other hand my wife loves to shop and has great talent in the area. So last summer wasn't soon enough for her to buy wedding clothes. We got right at it. Soon I had a super shirt, tie, pants and belt. For an outdoor summer wedding these threads would be perfect for an old guy.

       Continuing on with the excitement of wedding preparations, my wife is now gathering up the luggage, documents, clothing and anything remotely related to the trip.

       Today my wife hit a snag. She had hung up all the wedding clothes in one place. However , the belt we had bought was nowhere to be found. We looked on all the hooks for holding belts. We looked on all the pants with belts on. We looked under beds, in drawers, and went through all closets containing clothes. I was maligned to some extent. I was accused of leaving a pair of pants somewhere with the new belt on them. I don't ever remember coming home with out pants. For me , I think I would have been in big trouble to come home without pants. She wondered if I'd gone somewhere and changed clothes for some reason and left a pair of pants behind. Not me. I don't do that stuff.

      The search resumed after supper and was widened to areas we hadn't looked in before. We were soon stumped as this search made no sense. We tried to think where we'd been and why the belt may have been worn.

     I decided to take another look at the belts on pants hanging in the closet. I looked at the buckles this time.What do you know ? The second belt I checked was the missing belt. The belt was good on two sides . I had used the brown side. We were looking for a black belt. We were also looking for a little different buckle.

      So when the lost is found there is great relief. A certain amount of anxiety and anger suddenly dissipates. The yelling stops and quiet returns.  Now I don't have to go to my daughter's wedding with my pants hanging down.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Great Commentary Makes the Music Sing

       I have always liked music. In my younger years my likes in music were quite narrow, but I still spent much time listening to music. My own musical talent is next to nothing. I tried to learn to play the piano but that did not produce any success.. I can't sing but will sing with a large group where I can blend in and not be heard. I was fortunate to have several close farm neighbors who were musical and played several instruments rather well. These people also talked about music and learned from each other. I also had buddies who had a country band and spent most of their time jamming and got the odd gig. During these times I was exposed to more than just the music.

       Since I've retired I've spent more time listening to music. The type of music I listen to and enjoy has broadened. One of the things that helps me enjoy music is excellent commentary. The more I know about the music the better I like it.

      One show I listen to on CBC is Saturday Night Blues (Right after the news). The host is Holger Petersen and he is a master when it comes to the blues. Holger is not just a walking encyclopedia, but can make his information interesting and fit it in so that the music makes much more sense. Holger can go back to very early blues performers who may have originated a special style  of playing. He will then take this and show how it has influenced other performers and writers. He will also show how blues music has influenced other genres of music. For example, the Beatles used techniques borrowed from the blues.

      Holger Petersen is authentic because of course he has played blues for a long long time. What better way to learn about music. Holger has done many interviews with performers and liberally replays these interviews when he wants to make a special point about the blues. Holger attends all the blues festivals and performances he can possibly get to and then brings back info and samples for the listeners to enjoy.

     I was not particularly fond of the blues until I started listening to Holger Petersen. Now I never miss his Saturday Night Blues and I am able to listen to blues music from other sources and appreciate it . So thanks to people Like Holger Peteresen I have a much greater appreciation of good music.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Outdoor Gym Comes to my Neighborhood

      I quite often post about being physically active. I've done a series of posts on "Old Guys Should." I've done cycling, cross country skiing, ice skating and hiking. I try to encourage seniors to push themselves to remain active. I am amazed at how active some seniors are and they give me a big boost to do better.

A local senior being active

      An outdoor gym was built in my neighborhood last summer and finished this spring. There are twenty stations and ten different types of apparatus. Recently people have been starting to use the facility. I notice that most people using the gym are probably people who would never go to a gym. I find seniors from a neighborhood adult housing complex, young people and young families. People are friendly and I'm sure that some people will benefit from the social contact. Some people are obviously new residents to our area.

A very pleasant outdoor gym

      So the last two nights I have stopped on my nightly bike ride and made a circuit of most apparatus. I've really got to work at the chin up. When I continued my bike ride I could feel that my legs felt as if they had done some work. Tonight I guess I spent more time on arms and shoulders as they felt good.

Red striding his little hearty out!

     So I have to congratulate my city for setting up the outdoor gyms around the city. This week they will have trainers at some of the gyms to provide coaching. I'm sure that these facilities will provide a great benefit to many people who would not ordinarily get to a gym.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Leaps of Learning and Plateaus of Learning

         If you've followed my blog for a few months you will have noticed that I have challenges when it comes to high tech stuff. I wrote about my struggle to conquer an ipod. I wrote recently about putting a new battery in my bicycle speedometer and then resetting it. I still have digital watch that I have to have a go at, but since I don't wear it that can wait.

       In the last few days I took some time to play with my digital camera. You guessed it . It finally twigged that it is set up like all the other gadgets. There are modes and parts to each mode. Once you get the hang of modes and their parts you're away to the races. Now I look at it and say, "Why did it take me so long to catch on?" I had been looking at how poor some of my pictures were. I thought that if I had the camera on automatic it would do the work for me.

      As a photographer I'm a point and shoot type. My first camera was a 35 mm automatic. They were a very good camera as you could point and shoot and get a good picture. I don't think ahead as to what things will look like or how I want things to look. The camera and the environment have been in control of me at all times. From now on I know more what my camera can do and I will think about that before taking a picture. Then I will have to consider the environment and make that work so that I get a better image.

       So a few days ago there was a great leap in learning for me as I transferred learning from another area to the camera. I can also look back to incredibly long plateaus. I've had that digital watch for more than twenty years. I remember the battery going dead as I had 200 kids on a field trip. I didn't know what the noise was. One of the kids finally discovered that my watch battery had died. He then was able to turn off the annoying alarm for a dead battery. The next time that battery goes dead I'm it, as there are no more kids in my life.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mothers Day

       I had been thinking about a Mothers Day post but I got behind. Now I know that's a really lame excuse but I admit it.

      I really decided not to post when I read my friend Ted's super post "My Mom." He said things extremely well and covered the Mom topic broadly. He also wrote from the male point of view.  It's an excellent post so I'm recommending that you read it.

     Ted is an excellent everything...writer, teacher, dad, husband, friend, story teller....Our school hired Ted when he graduated and he was a golden hire. I enjoyed teaching with him and have watched with pleasure as he has blossomed in his career. So make sure you take a look at Ted's blog.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cycling Season Has Begun

         A couple of posts ago I wrote about the end of skating season. A few nights ago the silly season of the Canadian election was over. So it's really time for cycling season to begin

         For me cycling season usually begins the end of March or early April. This year the winter ice from the trails finally disappeared this week. Some people will ride on the ice but that's not for me.

         The Cat Eye speedometer is what really sets cycling up for me. I set a goal of riding at least 1000 kms a season. With an accurate speedometer I can keep an up to date  account of how much cycling I'm doing. The cat eye I have is at least twenty years old. It shows time, speed, trip distance, overall distance and also times each trip. A battery lasts for at least 10 years .

      This  was the year or winter for the battery to go dead. Now you've heard this story from me before. When you replace the battery you have to redo all the information. So I have to set the wheel circumference so that I get the exact distance. Then I have to set the time. Now I've had a digital watch for more than twenty years and I can't set it. I haven't worn a watch since I retired. When I was teaching I was surrounded by twelve year olds so I had all kinds of people to set my watch. Now the other day with the cat eye I decided that I have to master these things. So I puzzled my puzzler and finally got everything set up so that it works correctly. More recently you remember my post about learning to run my ipod.

        So things are looking up. Maybe some day I will catch up to the flow of technology if I live long enough.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Canadian Election: "Git Over it"

         On Monday May 2, the Canadian general election was held and there were some major changes. The Conservative Party of Canada won a majority. The New Democratic Party made tremendous gains in their seat total. The Liberal party lost heavily. The Bloc Quebecois was almost eliminated.

         For some people the results were absolutely wonderful and for others the results were devastating. People commenting on television, radio, newspapers and twitter expressed a broad range of opinion. Some of these opinions were very negative and bitter while others were extremely happy. The conservatives had been working for a number of years to obtain a majority. Their supporters were overjoyed and some exuberant comments were made. The NDP made a huge gain and became the official opposition and their supporters were obviously happy. The liberals were pushed to third place and were terribly disappointed. They had worked hard and expected to maintain their level of support so a serious loss was hard to take. Many Liberal supporters were ready to blame all sorts of people for their loss. The Bloc was devastated as they went from 47 seats to 4. It's easy to see why people were disappointed. Some I'm sure were upset with the huge gain by the NDP.

      For me I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I like the idea of one party having a majority as parliament can operate a little easier as the party in power knows it's in power for 5 years. However, I do not like the idea of the Conservative party being in power as they want to do some things which don't make any sense whatsoever. Why do we have to get hosed to the tune of twenty nine billion dollars for jet fighters that will be obsolete long before they wear out? The contract for the new fighters was not an open contract so we have no idea how much we are being ripped off. Why are they spending on prisons which they could not provide any figures for when the crime rate is decreasing? Why are more prisons being built when more incarceration has been proved not to work? I was happy to see the NDP become the official opposition. The NDP is not perfect but they have social policy which I agree with. I strongly support Canada health care and other policies which assist those who need help.

      So there I am. I have some things to be happy about and some that I worry about.

      One thing I can tell myself and all others is "get over it!" This is democracy and the people have spoken. We don't have to go away and sulk. We have to continue to work to bring about the changes that we think are necessary and valuable.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Skating Season Ends

          Tuesday was our last skating session for this season. We started the first Tuesday in September and end the last Tuesday of April. It's a great season of fun and exercise.

          This skating session is for people who are 50+. We meet in an arena for one hour of skating. It's just skate around and around with some turns and a few stops for visits or just a plane break. Our oldest and probably best skater is 87. He likes to pair skate to music. Yes, there's music! For skating they like 3/4 time music as they do their skating stride to the music. Me? I just skate as I don't have rhythm!
         So now we have a four month break and will be looking forward to September when skating starts again.
This young lady turned 75 a couple of weeks ago and took us all to the dairy Queen for ice cream.