Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve: Triumph or Tragedy

       Since New Year's Eve is a significant date we often remember things that occurred on that date. Some of the things could be ordinary and if they happened on any other day they may be forgotten. However, the winners and losers really stick out.

      A New Year's Eve that occurred in 1964 stands out in my mind as the one that goes down in my history. For a young guy New Year's Eve was a time to party. Few of us had steady girlfriends so a date for New Year's Eve was important. I was living in Inuvik at the time and the community population was about 1500 people. There was lots of coming and going. We had a 100 bed hospital so there were lots of nurses. The single guys kept close tabs on new staff who came in. There was lots of socialization. It was good fun. 

     However, on New Year's Eve a date was important. I had met a nurse in November when she arrived to work in the hospital. I tried to phone her a number of times to ask her to the New Year's Eve party, but I was not successful. A colorful Jamaican public health nurse lived in my building. When she found out that my friend and I were in a predicament for New Year's Eve she said , "I'll find somebody for you." She knew who we had been trying to invite. So New Year's Eve came and we appeared at the nurses residence to pick up our blind dates. Sure enough the girl I had tried to contact was there all dressed up for a party! Her best friend was there for my friend. We had a great time.

    After that more dates occurred and lo and behold that young lady became my wife. So we always joke that we met on a blind date.

    So I can look back on that New Year's Eve as a win! As in most relationships there have been ups and downs. On some days we would say that was a tragic night and most days that it was the greatest night ever.
     How about your New Year's Eves? Have they all been eventful and memorable? Have some of them been tragic?

    So here's a Happy New Year to all my readers. Have a wonderful 1012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Scythe Becomes a Piece of Art

       When it comes to art,  my qualifications are pretty thin. I like art and appreciate it. However, I have no artistic skill and have never had any experience or training. All of this doesn't stop me from expressing my like of art.
The scythe before the handle was taken off.

       A few months ago I did two posts on a scythe I had owned for many years. I  made one post on my life with the scythe and another on the sale of my scythe. So a few months ago my scythe finally sold. The sale and what the scythe was to be used for was interesting. Robin Williams, the buyer, only wanted the handle. He explained to me that he was an artist and wanted a wooden scythe handle in a piece of sculpture that he was creating. He was extremely happy to find this scythe handle as he had been looking for a wooden scythe handle for a long time. Scythe handles for a long time have been made of metal. It's easy to bend the metal into the scythe handle shape. This artist had researched how wooden scythe handles were made. If it wasn't so complicated and the requirement for special tools, he would have made a scythe handle. The wooden handles were made by a process of soaking and steaming the wood. Then it was placed in a jig where it dried and retained it's shape. I found his description and ideas rather interesting. 

      He then went into more detail as to what his plan was for the sculpture. He described himself as a Gothic artist and he wanted to fashion a special blade with Gothic symbols and shapes. At the end he promised me he would send a picture of his sculpture because he knew I was interested to see what happened. Like many things in this aged brain I had forgotten that he would send a picture. So when the picture arrived a month ago I was pleasantly surprised.

     Robin took the old blade off and cut a new piece of metal into the shape of a large blade. He then drew out a pattern on a piece of card board and probably traced it out on the blade. Then the hard work came to cut out the steel and then finish the steel.
New blade and pattern plotted out on cardboard.
New blade and pattern.
Blade against a straw bale.
                                          All photos submitted by Robin Williams

     It was interesting that he had taken steel and cut it  for a blade with Gothic imagery. So my scythe lives on a piece of art.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas at Hiawatha House

       Christmas is a pretty laid back affair around Hiawatha House. Nobody gets up at 4 AM and sneaks downstairs to see if Santa had been there. On the other hand nobody sleeps in. We get up at the usual time and have breakfast and get on with the first chores of the day.

       Our daughter Skyped us from Chicago. We shared some Christmas chatter and showed various things we hadn't seen before. WE saw a Christmas present that we hadn't opened yet. She got the same thing we got although we hadn't opened it yet. 

       After the daughter's call we opened gifts.
I did get my stocking hung up!
The grand kids gifts
Goofy grandpa with the grand kids gifts.
Surprise!  Surprise! I got a sweater for Christmas.
 A really silly self done photo.

       The standard lunch was had by all!
 Had a nice two km walk around bower Ponds. Lots of skaters on this well kept outdoor pond. I was sorry I didn't take my skates.

       Skyped with the grand kids in the afternoon.

      Very good Christmas dinner. We had turkey breast. After we had eaten we  noticed that a single neighbor was home alone so took a plate of our dinner over to him.

       From 7-8 PM I went cross country skiing. I really needed to burn of those extra calories.

Friday, December 23, 2011


       I've been on a lucky streak recently! I've won two things in the last month. That's along streak of luck for me!
        First I won a CD that the Musical Gardener was giving for a prize when he drew names from commenters on his blog. The CD was Susan Boyle doing mostly Christmas songs.

         Yesterday I won a book when they drew my name. I was at an appreciation lunch for Kerry Wood nature Center volunteers. I  received the book " The Sanctuary" written by Kerry Wood. Kerry Wood was a local Red Deer author who specialized in Natural history. Kerry Wood was prolific author as he wrote numerous books and radio clips when these were popular in the 40' and 50's Kerry Wood knew his subject from having hands on experience. These days we think we're awesome when we go off grid. Wood built a cabin and pretty well left society for a year when he lived off the land with little bought from stores. He made his own furniture. He collected plants and animals for food. Since I always liked Kerry wood I was happy to win a book of his. 

       So I consider myself fortunate in the lucky department for the last few weeks. Maybe I should buy a few lottery tickets since I'm on such a hot streak!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


     Dec. 18 was the appointed day for the Christmas Bird Count(CBC) in my area. Out of the last 42 years I have missed the CBC maybe five times. It's a high light of the year for me.

     I have done the same area for about 35 years. I know about what I'll find every year. So why do the same area? It's the surprises you get when you see something different.  The last two years have been dismal as far as the species I've found and the number of birds counted. Last year was bitterly cold. This year we had an overnight snow fall and the birds weren't moving. Five species I expected to count, I didn't see. Ordinarily we see blue jays, white breasted nuthatches, pigeons and  red breasted nuthatches every day. Usually I would see hairy woodpeckers and pileated woodpeckers but not Dec. 18. 

   The area I count is a fairly wide ravine with a variety of habitat. There can be old growth spruce,poplar willow and a variety of shrubs. It was used as pasture land until about 25 years ago. It has a wide variety of excellent habitat.
Large old growth spruce

      Our day was mild and calm. It was pleasant to be outside all day. In the evening we had a great potluck supper.
Mixed poplar and spruce

     What was unusual on Dec. 18 was the number of little difficulties I encountered. I slipped on the side of a ravine and fell a few feet down the side. I got out and found my pant pretty muddy. Ten minutes later when I wanted to record some birds I found that my recording card was gone. So guess what? I lost it when I fell. Later I wanted to use my field glasses and hurriedly went into my back pack. The field glasses were not here. I was sure I had put them in but thought I left them by my back door. A little while later I wanted to record an bird and found that I had lost my pencil. So the comedy of errors is piling up.

     I got home and no the field glasses were not in the doorway. I checked the computer room and bedroom...nothing! I rechecked everything again...nothing! So I was ready to drive back to where I fell. So one more look in the back pack. There they were. Had gone in the wrong pouch in my excitement to see the bird. Of course I caught it from the clothes washer person for getting my pants muddy. 

     So if the birds don't make your day, being a bumbling idiot will make for some excitement.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Other Shoe Has Dropped.

     A couple of posts ago I told of raising the Christmas tree at our house. It's my job to put up the old artificial tree. It's my wife's job to decorate the tree. I was telling you that sometimes we don't get to putting up a tree. 
     Well, this year the tree is up and it's also decorated!  How about that?

So my wife's decorating job does wonders to my little old artificial tree!

To all readers, have a joyous Christmas season.!

I will be posting during the holiday period as there is so much going on. 

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Accidental Salesman

      Today I was an accidental salesman for a few hours!

       Our Nature Center has a bookstore as many nature centers do. They have tables in the various malls at Christmas. Of course these tables are manned by volunteers. I volunteer a couple of times each season for a few hours. It's interesting because people come to you with all kinds of natural history questions or comments. They will have a bird that comes to their yard that they can't identify. Somebody else wants to know about bats. Another person is totally absorbed by craters. I find these interactions very positive and many times I learn something new. 

      However, I'm supposed to be there selling books? Sales are slow but the main objective is to get the nature center book store name out there and hopefully people will visit the nature center. Any books I sell in the process will be completely accidental!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Great Times: Skater's Christmas Party

        I have posted before about how I ice skate on a regular basis from the first Tues. in Sept. to the last Tues. in April. I started this year with a post called "Whee Skating Started Again!"  I really feel that way.
Having fun before the party

        As with many groups involved with an activity there develops a tremendous support for one another. In an urban setting people can sometimes become completely isolated. 

        So today the skaters had their annual Christmas party. We invite all the previous skaters who have for one reason or another stopped skating. Since we are seniors people can find themselves at an age where they cannot continue skating. These people love to join the Christmas party and meet with old friends who they skated with before. They support one another and meet new skaters. All present skaters and past skaters make an effort to meet and continue the relationship which comes through skating.

       So today after skating we had a table laden with goodies and coffee supplied by club members . We meet after skating in a large reception room. Acquaintances are renewed and for many it's one of the major events they attend at Christmas. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Just When You Think It'll Never Happen It Does

      I have had an artificial Christmas tree since the "early stone age!" When my kids were little I would involve them in putting the tree up. I would ask for pink branch and they would both dive in the box to find a pink coded branch. When they got older my daughter branched off to the decorating of the tree with her mother. When ti kids left home and didn't always come back for Christmas the putting up of the tree was somewhat sporadic.

    So I would ask my wife when she wanted me to put the tree up. I'm a big kid and to put the tree up Dec. 1 would be fine with me. My wife would sat, "I'll tell you when I want it up." So over the years I would wait until I received the request to put up the tree. Sometimes it would be so late it was only a few days before Christmas. One or two times it didn't get put up at all.

     So this year on Dec. 13 I was requested to put up the tree. It's close to Christmas and to me it's just about not worth the time to raise the tree. 

      So I was hiding in the weeds and thinking ,"Maybe this year it'll never happen," and then oops! It does happen and the tree has to be put up.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Hooked on Casinos

      Now I don't gamble! So this does not cover a personal story of a gambling problem.

      My concern is the other side of gambling where organizations depend on funds from casinos.

     When Alberta legalized gambling and casinos were set up, charitable organizations complained as it would kill the bingo cash cow. Therefore, the Alberta Govt. set up a system where groups needing funds could volunteer in the casino and receive funds for their efforts. It's a good deal for non profits as for two days of effort you receive $20 000 to $30 000. You only get a casino once every two years so it's popular and why not?

      I am on the board of an organization which has a casino. Why there's a bee in my bonnet is because we've recently been working on two casino reports which we must complete. The first report is an accounting of what we have done with casino money. We have to keep a separate casino account. The people who want the report decided the period should be from part of 2009, all of 2010 and part of 2011. So we had to go through files from 3 different years...not fun! It doesn't make you happy when the report is returned and they want different information.

     Now because we have an upcoming casino, we must file a detailed budget of what we are going to spend the money on and the approximate time it will be spent. Most organizations have one big item to spend their money on and it's done. We have many smaller and different  events. One thing we do is  present about 8 speakers a year. We really have to work to get the Alberta Liquor and Gaming Commission to accept speakers. 

    So the two days of working at the casino are a piece of cake. The book work is a pain in the butt. You are limited in what the money can be spent on. It would be easier if you could spend the money on any of your groups on going activities.

    Organizations have become dependent on casino funds. Your group is put in a schedule for a casino date.  Other fund raising activities have become less lucrative so we  work hard at participating in casinos.

     So guess what? I will continue working to raise income from casinos???


Friday, December 9, 2011

Can I Wear My New Sweater?

      The other day we decided that it was time to wash the sweater that I wear around the house. So when I handed it to my wife I asked her if I should wear my new sweater. She hesitated and had a funny look on her face and then I said, "Or are you going to wrap it up for Christmas?"  She freely admitted yes that's what her plan was.

       For the last few years this has been a routine around here. Something that was bought during the year ends up under the Christmas tree.

      Shopping with me  goes like this. My wife will come home with a sweater. She will ask me to try it on and see if it fits. She will then ask me if I like it. I can't say no or I would hurt her feelings. So then the sweater is kept. It works like this for most of my clothes. She puts the item away and I soon forget about it and that's why it's so easy for her to put it under the tree. So if I have not been part of the decision it leaves my mind. 

the old sweater
     So I don't like shopping! I've told you that before. My wife loves shopping. She particularly likes watching for sales. She also likes looking around thrift shops, garage sales, craft sales and open houses. A place like Coombs market near Parksville, BC keeps her happy for hours.

      So I dug around in the closet and found a sweat shirt of some kind to wear in the house. Sweater problem solved.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How Our Muscles Age

        I read many excellent posts on aging. Topics covered are health, elder care and the  loss of parents, siblings, children and friends. Volunteering to assist elderly people is another large issue that many people are involved in. People become acutely aware of their aging and begin to think of their own end. People look in the obituaries and start to see that many of the people who die are younger than they are. 

       But there's another  factor I would like to look at. That is the process that gradually happens to our muscles. As we age we become weaker and this brings about difficulties in mobility and participating in daily activities.

      Today I listened to a radio documentary on a 92 year old woman who trains and  competes in all track and field  events. She holds world records in her age category in all track and field events except one. If I considered doing long jump my body would be jarred so severely that I may not be able to move again. This 92 year old trains four or five days a week and travels all over North America to compete. She is compared to someone who would be twenty years younger than her.

      Scientists are interested in this woman to see if there is a gene that allows her to  be so strong at this age. They want to know why she is so very strong while others that age are very weak.

     At about age 75 we lose a large percentage of our strength. Muscles are composed of  particles which are like  "trees". These particles are beside each other head to head and mesh with each other. This is what the process of stretching involves. We stretch the little particles to bring about better use of the whole muscle.  As we age the "trees" move further apart. In our seventies the "trees" are actually beside each other and do not mesh. From this point on the "trees" move further apart and we steadily lose strength. Scientists know that his process happens but they don't know much else.

     So that is why scientists are interested in the ninety two year old who competes in track. They want to know if there is a certain type of gene she has that the rest of us don't have that allows her this extraordinary strength. 

     If they find something, it's already too late for me. Getting up from the floor now takes me great  effort!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Trouble with Free Lunches

       Now I'll be up front. I don't like free lunches! Now before you leave and say, "Nut job!" I'll defend myself.

       Home Farm Girl is absolutely obsessed with free stuff. She thinks she's died and gone to heaven when she gets samples of anything in the grocery stores.

       So today a mall had an appreciation of seniors lunch. The lunch was free and the first 200 got a free gift. The mall is about 7km away so Home Farm Girl couldn't walk. The bus would take about the same time. So I was embarrassed into taking her to the mall. So guess what, I'll have to stay for lunch! Now we had to be there early so Home farm Girl would get the free gift. I was also lined up to get a free gift as well but we weren't too smart as they found out we were a couple so only one gift to a house hold. So what was the big free gift? A bag of candies! Just what all old folks would like! Oh and there was a ticket in the package for a free picture with Santa. So guess who had to get a picture with Santa?

      Now I don't like crowds! Give me the wide open spaces. There are probably 500 people who take in the lunch so there's a mammoth line up. There's a rinky dink table where they serve you Cole slaw , potato salad, sandwiches that are flat,cookies and drinks. All of this on plastic  plate! There are various musical groups which entertain you. There was some toe tapping old time music. Now to go through all this pain is not worth the free lunch. I would rather be out or just plain at home at the computer reading blogs. 

     So Home Farm Girl had  great time! After I was dragged to the mall I actually did enjoy myself! You can't be that miserable that you wouldn't enjoy a free lunch.