Monday, July 16, 2018

ERNIE

    When I lived in a far northern arctic settlement we had to have a person who looked after all of the maintenance required for daily living. This person saw that the generators were running for our electricity, that we had water, that sewage and garbage were looked after, that our furnaces always had a supply of oil in the tank and anything else that had to be done. On top of this the guy had to be able to work independently, have good communications skills, get  along with others, plan for a year ahead. So you see this person had to be just about everything. 

     My person was Ernie, a French Canadian, who was born and raised in a fringe area. The family eked out a living by working part time in the bush and producing their own food and many other necessities of life. This background made Ernie  an all round handy man. In these communities they only spoke French.

     Ernie was a bachelor and a very jovial , amicable kind of guy who enjoyed life with very little.

    Ernie joined the army early in the war as it was a place to eat and get some pay. Ernie purposely chose an English unit as he wanted to learn English. On his first day his group was lined up and they asked for someone to volunteer for a job. He stepped out and said yes which was probably the only English word he knew. What he'd volunteered for was to type. He'd never seen a typewriter before . He always laughed about that one.

    Now after the war a high percentage of government employees were veterans. So Ernie came by his job in our settlement. He was well able to live in isolation and was a good cook and housekeeper.

    The only vehicle in the community was a J-5 which was a small tracked vehicle like a pick up truck. This vehicle was used to haul things around the community. Every time it moved it was loaded with kids who wanted a ride. Kids visited him every evening. Ernie liked the kids and they liked him.

    Ernie kept the diesel engines running to produce power. He was creative. They expected him to keep our houses supplied with water, but they didn't give him a water tank. Ernie got some plywood and built a big box to haul the water. He knew that a wooden box would hold water just like a metal tank. He had a pump and pumped water from the lake into the box. He came to our house and used his trusty pump to pump water from the box to a tank in the house. In the winter he oversaw the cutting of ice that was used for water in the winter. Again he built a sledge to haul the ice to our house. 

     So it was a great situation but Ernie had one major flaw in his character. He was an extreme binge drinker. Many men like Ernie would come to an isolated settlement or a "dry" camp where they could limit alcohol consumption. Two or three times a year Ernie brought in some booze. He would drink until the bottle was empty. He became a completely different person. Anger raged. He would turn off the electricity hoping that I would challenge him. I never did and after a few minutes the electricity would come on. I would avoid him at these times as it could be more than unpleasant and completely unproductive.

     When Ernie left for summer holidays he would always say, "I don't know if I'm coming back." For his summer holidays he would go to Montreal and it was one long binge. Three or four weeks later Ernie would show up on a plane and with a big smile would tell us he was happy to be back.

     I've often wondered what demons drove Ernie to the extreme binges.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

ELLIS BIRD FARM

      In my last post I told how we had been visiting the Ellis Bird farm . Some asked questions about the farm. I had on my list to do a post of the bird farm.

 The entrance with all kinds of nest boxes

The original gate and driveway. Notice the 
Texas gate.


     First some history.  The province of Alberta in Canada is rich in oil and gas. For a number of years some Petro chemical companies had been planning some large plants to process the gas into other products. In the 1970's they started building these plants.
  


      Modern industry thinks they need large acreages to build on. They also build away from urban areas. It's no big deal for them to build pipelines or railroads to their plants.  At one time they had 4000 construction workers so it gives you an idea of the size of the plants. They've added since that time.


    So one of the farms that was bought was owned by Charlie Ellis.  Charlie and his sister Winnie owned 800 acres.

     Charlie was an excellent farmer and naturalist. In the 1950's he noticed a decline in the bluebird population. Being a resourceful man he set up blue bird nesting boxes. It was new territory. He had to experiment to find the right size of the box and the hole size.

    One of the interpretive centers
 One of Charlies tractors
 The original barn and coral.
  Beautiful rolling farmland now used for hay production

Another one of charlie's tractors.

      Naturalists were horrified that this property was going to be used for industry. Well, part of it was going to be used. The Ellis Blue Bird farm was set up to preserve the land and habitat. The land was still going to be farmed. The Company agreed to this arrangement and sweetened the pot with lots of money over the years.

     All habitat has been maintained and the original homestead has been developed into a tourist destination. Most of the original farm buildings are still there. The house has been made into a tea room.

    Now in photos you will see hundreds of nest boxes. Most of them are fund raising projects. Interpretive centers have been developed with all kinds of information.

    Unfortunately the blue bird population has continued to decline. I saw only two bluebirds on June 18,2018  There are more on the property. On that day in 2 1/2 hours we saw thirty species of birds and did not cover the whole property.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A GREAT CHICAGO CATTLE BARRON

       Sometimes I like to exaggerate and embellish the odd post to the point of fiction. I usually warn you. . This post has been torqued.

      The owners of  large cattle and lumber operations were sometimes referred to as Barons.

       My son-in-law visited recently. He was born and raised in Chicago and has spent time in another state. The area he lived in was a mix of urban and rural. But I have the idea in my head that he lived in the city jungle with wall to wall buildings. You would only see sidewalks.

      We went to the country to spend time at the Ellis Bird farm. The bird farm is in the country with rolling hills , green grass and crops. There are views where you cannot see farmsteads or buildings. I decided to line him up by a fence where the view is just country with no buildings. Then I changed the direction a bit to include a herd of cattle.







      So there was my cattle baron. Now I didn't have a cowboy hat to put on his head. He looks more like a European farmer. 

      So even if you're old it's still fun to pretend. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

CUBAN LUNCH

     As a child I loved chocolate bars (candy bars). I know , I'll get to Cuban lunch later. In our house we seemed to have a good supply of chocolate bars. Maybe it's because my Dad liked chocolate. He bought chocolate bars and shared them with us. He bought the bars that were made in squares so that they could be easily divided and shared.

     As a teenager and young adult I bought lots of chocolate bars.

     When I went to the isolated northern settlement I took in my supply of chocolate bars. I took six cartons. I think each carton had 12 bars. I also took a variety of bars. I had a wide selection of bars that I liked.

     Gradually my consumption of chocolate bars lessened until today when I can't remember the last time I had a chocolate bar.

     Now the other day I heard about a  woman in Alberta who's mother is ill  and she wanted to give her mother her very favorite candy bar...a Cuban lunch. She found that the Cuban lunch was not produced anymore. The Cuban lunch was a mix of rich dark chocolate and peanuts and were they good! That was the first time I knew that they didn't make Cuban lunch chocolate bars any more. The bars had not been made since the late 1980's. They had been made by a company in Winnipeg , Manitoba.

Cuban Lunch Co



    Now the Alberta woman decided that she would try and make a Cuban lunch chocolate bar. She did much research. She could not track down the original recipe. Gradually she got something that is very close to the original.

    She has been producing a few of these bars in her kitchen. Now a company has been found that would produce these chocolate bars.

    I can hardly wait to find one and enjoy a Cuban lunch again.

    I think Cuban lunch chocolate bars were only sold in Canada. Has anyone heard of them except for Canadians.

Friday, July 6, 2018

CHRISTMAS IN JULY

   Well that's not a terribly original or creative title but I promise I will be on the topic.

    Most followers know that I whine about downsizing. The micro manager and I have many conversations on downsizing but we don't seem to accomplish much.

    We try and bribe our kids to relieve us of some material but it doesn't work well.

    We have not put Christmas decorations up for the last three years so the time has come to part with Christmas decorations. We knew that our daughter was interested in some Christmas items. We haven't checked with our son yet. So our daughter was here this week and we asked here to go through things and pick what she wanted.

    She picked a few special items that had meaning to her. That was it. So we spent a couple hours going through Christmas ornaments in July.

    We have three tightly packed boxes of Christmas ornaments...not a lot compared to some people. What's left hits the garage sale.

    The micro manager carefully bought items over the years from a variety of sources. Some items are unique.

    So the Micro Manger told of one decoration that I had forgotten about.

    As a young couple we went into a small isolated northern community.  We didn't have Christmas ornaments as we'd only been married one year and had gone to our parents for Christmas. This was our first Christmas on our own and surprise , surprise! we didn't have Christmas decorations. We were not able to buy decorations where we were living. We couldn't buy a tree and there were no trees there. So the Micro manager got creative and made some ornaments. She heated up some wax and poured it over figures and that was our Christmas decorations.


    The Micro manager made these in the north.





Wednesday, July 4, 2018

LAST SPRING BIRD WATCH SESSION

      Many of you know that I lead a weekly bird watching session. I take people for two hours on Saturday mornings. We meet at various locations throughout the season and see how many bird species we can find.

    I have from 8-16 people attend and a total of 25 people who have participated. This spring we went out 9 times and 7 were at in town locations. We saw 70 species in that amount of time.

    We know our birds as several people are super knowledgeable on birds and they don't mind sharing information. They are good teachers. However , we are a fun group and lots of good visiting takes place. There are standard jokes like seeing the " penguin." 

    We don't bird in the summer so our last session was June 20. We went to a place known as Spring Brook Natural Area. It's 160 acres of natural habitat. There are wetlands, grass areas, riparian, brush and old growth forest so a wide variety of habitat.

    I didn't take photos on Saturday but I have photos from last year.








Tuesday, July 3, 2018

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY

     To all my American followers, have a happy Fourth of July.