Monday, December 28, 2009

Eek! New Years Resolutions are Coming

       It's the silly time of year when we fall all over ourselves to make "New Years Resolutions". What's wrong with a good old resolution you say? Well, nothing's wrong with a resolution. It just seems that with all the hype at the New Year something is lost in the resolution and that's a shame.
       Call me a "sad sack" or whatever, but in order for resolutions to be of any value they have to be made with a few guidelines. Resolutions need to be reasonable and realistic. Can one possibly achieve the resolution? If I say I'm going to save $10 000.00 this year and I only make $20 000.00 that isn't possible and it isn't going to happen no matter how many guidelines we have. The end of a resolution has to be measureable. I'm going to lose 5 pounds in 6 months. That has two measureable aspects. A resolution chart should be kept so that we can check and update our resolutions evry 30 days or whatever time frame makes sense for the individual.

      Resolutions are valuable for one to attempt to improve various aspects of his/her  life. I believe that we should always be looking for personal improvement. This can bring about long term satisfaction, success and happiness. Life is a journey and it lasts all year so make resolutions throughout the year.

     So resolutions only made at one special time of year and in a party atmosphere are not my style. I'd prefer to see something a little less flashy and a little more obtainable.

     Am I making New Years resolutions? Not on a bet! Not that I don't need to make some resolutions. There's lots to improve on old Red.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Scoop on Boxing Day

     I was asked today to write a little something about Boxing Day...apparently, having something of a background and interest in history (7 years teaching Social Studies can do that to a person), meant I had the kind of expertise on the subject that would lend credibility to a posting.
     Actually, my only real expertise on Boxing Day was shopping.
     However, the tradition for the day was as follows. Boxing Day was the day when the British Empire's gentry would distribute gifts to their servants, hired help and whatnot. Naturally, I'm assuming those fine folk were working on Christmas Day to serve their masters' families, and were clearly not of any stature to partake in gift exchanges on Christmas Day with those whom they served. So, gifts and tokens would be boxed and set aside to be given the day after Christmas.
     These days, of course, we mainly think of Boxing Day as the day for sales, and lining up at ungodly hours in the hopes of getting that one, precious, and severely marked-down piece of electronics they've been advertising on TV for 3 weeks prior. To me, it's a scam. Lure you in with rock-bottom sale pricing for an item they'll inevitably only have 1-2 of anyway. But hey, since you're here (and have been waiting/freezing since 4am), why not upgrade to that other item, which frankly, is better anyway, and still a great deal at $100 more than you'd budgeted.
   Has my cynicism crept in? Oops!
   I have to hand it to Americans...they have "Black Friday", which is THE shopping day for the holidays. It takes place on the Friday immediately after Thanksgiving (late November), which means you can actually buy gifts for Christmas on sale....before Christmas. The "black" label comes from the (traditional) notion that this is the day that pulls retailers into the black on finances. Not sure that's the case this year or last, but there you have it.
     I just remember on Boxing Day, heading to the mall with Mum to pick through what was left of holiday items, hoping to stock up for next year's holidays (cheap cards! wrap! bows! lights!) on the cheap. The more I think about it, Boxing Day - a British tradition - works out best for Orthodox Ukrainians, who are smart enough to wait 'til January for their Christmas celebrations.
     I can't say I entirely miss Boxing Day now that I live in the US, but I do have a sympathetic ear for my American colleagues who whine (jealously) about all the additional holidays Canadians get.
    Happy Holidays and good luck with the shopping!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Season's Greetings

         Season's greetings to all my valued readers from Hiawatha House. Readers are highly valued by writers as when we write we hope someone will read and have some type of response to what we say. You may agree or disagree with the ideas. You may like or dislike the humor or point of view taken. You may understand or be baffled by what is said. You may learn something knew or think about something in a different way.

         Writers need  responses as it tells them so many things. I get new ideas to write about. I find out if I'm making sense or not. Many comments support what I am doing and as such encourage me to explore new ideas. A blog is really a community.

        Many of my readers are somewhat shy as few comments are made. I know enough of my readers personally as they are friends and relatives. I get feed back when I see them or communicate in some way. It's always interesting to welcome someone who is searching the net and they find my blog. Some people take a good look at the blog and then  go on and disappear. Whatever your visit, it is most appreciated.

      My fellow author Jock, has his own blog. He has written a very good Christmas story which is very worthwhile for you to read so click on the link and read an original Christmas story.

     So from Hiawatha House have a wonderful Christmas.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Unfinished Logic

       A few days ago I wrote a post called Logic Hiawatha House Style. I was trying to make the point that around winter solstice time the sun would begin  to set later in the afternoon before the solstice. I further tried to point out that the sun would continue to rise later each mornining until well after the solstice.

      Today I will include a little chart with sunrises and sunsets. Maybe my logic will make some sense. Let me know if it makes sense or not.

                                                   sunrise               sunset

        Dec. 18                                                       4:23
        Dec. 19                               8:42                4:23
        Dec. 20                               8:42
        Dec. 21                                                       4:24
        Dec. 22                               8:43               4:25
        Dec. 23                               8: 44              4:26
        Dec. 24                               8:44
        Dec. 26                                                      4:28
        Dec. 27                                8:45

                I will continue to add to this chart over the next few days.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Red's Christmas Bird Count a Bummer

       The Christmas bird count for me this year was rather disappointing. I had written a previous post "Christmas Bird Count is a Comin" where I described  my enjoyment of the count. So what happened?
      Well, this year my agenda was stolen so I didn't have much time. I did manage to get out for an hour from 9:15 to 10:15AM. Our weather conditions were heavy overcast so it was very dull. Birds weren't moving at all . One has to be patient to count birds and I admit I wasn't patient. So I only saw 4 species and 15 birds.

     Usually I spend about 5 hours and walk about 5 kms. I usually see 8 species and 60 to 80 individual birds.
    Next year I will see that nothing interferes with count day and hope that I find my usual birds.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


    I do like listening to a wide variety of music even though I am not in anyway musical. As I have said before I enjoy radio rather than TV. I quite often find informative programs about music on the CBC and CKUA.

      One show I really like is Randy's Vinyl Tap with host Randy Bachman on CBC at 7:00 Sat evenings . Randy keeps the topic to any rock music produced on vinyl . Well, many times it's expanded to blues , country and classical because he likes to show how the music was influenced by other genres. The rest of it is spin . Randy gives a tremendous amount of information about the music and artist . His shows are based on themes such as girl bands, bass guitar and songs which only made it to No. 2 . Tonight I am listening to his Christmas show. He has music done with his kids at Christmas.You get the drift . Many times he plays tapes of music which was never produced commercially .Things like that make it interesting . Along with all the banter he plays music to illustrate his point . Many times he gives information which is background and you suddenly understand much more about the music and the song.

      Many times Randy will explain in basic terms how certain sounds are produced . He has a tremendous interest in instruments and has two whole shows on the two main types of guitars and how they developed over time .

So I highly recommend that you take a listen to Randy's Vinyls.

Driver's License Renewal Blues

          I thought that I had witten a previous post on problems I had renewing my driver's license. I looked for it but could not find it. So guess what ? It's a post I thought I had written but didn't.
          To make a long story short when I went to renew my license this year, they asked if I had any health problems which would prevent me from driving. I replied, "Yes, as I had a TIA in 2008 which I described in a previous post Stroke of Luck. They put a "C" on my file which means that I would always have to have a medical to renew my license. I thought that this was extremely unfair and appealed the ruling and won. My point on the blog that didn't get written was that the Registries were inconsistant in applying the rules.
          This brings me to today's post.
          A friend of mine broke his hip in June. He had a number of setbacks in his recovery and returned to the hospital. Time passed and his driver's license came up for renewal. He went to another registry and stood in line in his walker. One of the clerks came over and took him out of the line up and to her desk. She asked him what he wanted. He stated he wanted to renew his driver's license She asked the standard question. Have you had any health problems which would prevent you from driving? His response was , "Not really." He was then issued a renewal for his license.
       They then asked where he was  parked . He told them he was in the handicapped parking stall. They then opened a back door so that he could have an easier time to get to his vehicle.
        So the point of my post is that the system is very inconsistant and so some people are unfairly treated.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Logic Hiawatha House Style

       Okay, the logic part will come later.

        First some background. I was raised on an isolated Saskatchewan farm so I was really a free range kid. See "Isolated Farm Life" From a very early age we played all over the farm yard. When I was a little or eight ...I wandered over the whole farm and much further afield. Getting permission to ramble from my Mom never came to my mind. If I was needed a large bell was rung and that was my signal to get home right now. Being outdoors most of the time exposed me to the elements and made me keenly aware of my natural surroundings. A love and knowledge of natural areas was learned over the years.

      Sunrises , sunsets and seasons became part of me. Beautiful skies will always be a part of me. I loved the fantastic sky colors in the Arctic when the sun didn't rise. I  will also never froget the enerizing feeling of Artic summers when we had 24 hour daylight. Since I live the small city of Red Deer I have discovered the best vantage points to watch sunrises and sunsets.

      At this time of year with decreasing daylight sunrises and sunsets become much more crucial. I don't know when or how I discovered that there is an imblance between morning and evening when it comes to decreasing daylight at this time of year. Now from Dec. 8 , the sun does not set any later. The sun sets at the same time until Dec. 21or so. Then the sun begins to set  later each day. Now you say how come? Isn't  this supposed to be shortest day of the year time? In the morning the sun is coming up later each morning. It does this until about Dec. 31. By Jan. 7 the sun starts to rise earlier each morning. It's one of the ways I have of surviving the dark period of the year when I know that at one end(sunset) the day starts to get longer.

     So that's my logic. I hope you can follow it. If you can't follow it contact me by leaving a comment.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hiawatha House Cold and Snowy

      You better believe Hiawatha House is cold and snowy! Early Friday morning gusty northwest winds hit and shortly after that snow began to fall. By noon Friday we were walking through 5 cm of snow. This weather stayed with us all Friday and really got going Friday night with lots more snow. The snow drifted which it rarely does here.

     Saturday morning  my papers must be delivered by 9:00 AM. It's still very dark here at 8:00AM. With the limited light it was difficult to see were the snow was shallow or deep. At many residences there was a 1 m drift blocking their front entrance or across the drive way. At some residences I just picked a route through the yard where the snow was shallower.

      I shovelled my driveway and sidewalks twice on Friday. Saturday there were drifts which were packed. Trails through the yard had to be opened so that I could reach various areas of the yard. So you see I have had lots of exercise in the fresh air.

     For followers of Hiawatha House who live in England , Asia or the southern United States this weather is hard to imagine. I get used to it and enjoy being out and active. With all the new snow we will be able to groom cross country ski trails and have some excellent sking.

     My snow bird friends delight in telling me how nice the weather is in the sunny south. That's okay!  Enjoy your balmy weather. When spring arrives hear, I will appreciate it much more.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Racial Discrimination

        A few weeks ago a local weekly paper I get had a historical feature on  Jewish settlers who attempted to homestead here in the early 1890's. Discrimination was one of the many things that challenged them and made their short time here extremely miserable.
       These settlers came to the area out of desperation as their opportunities in other areas were limited. They apparently did not have an agricultural background. I say apparently as few, if any people got to know them during their short stay here. They were not used to or prepared for the rigorous climate here. They built partial dugout homes with earth piled up for sides. The roof was made from poles covered with long grass. They were not able to break enough land to grow food or crops to sell. No one knows if they had animals for food or power. Very few written records remain of these people.
      Apparently some of these people perished from the harsh conditions and their inability to produce food. Again apparently is the key word. No one really made it their business to communicate with them so they could assist or share work.

      Why weren't these early settlers assisted? Their neighbors simply looked upon them as Jews and did not go to their aid as they thought they would have lots of money some where? Other settlers of different backgrounds helped each other out. They shared work and ideas of how to make shelter from the land and raise and gather food. The Jewish settlers were ostracised.

      It's rather sad and tragic that a group of people suffered so severely just because of being different. Now this incident took place over 100 years ago. You may be tempted to say ,  "Well, we wouldn't do that today."

     I'm not so sure that we would be much better today? There are altogether too many incidents of discrimination taking place today not only in our own area ,but around the world.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas Bird Count is a Comin!

       I have participated in the Red Deer Christmas bird counts since 1969 and in Christmas for a lot longer than that. I enjoy both of them .

       The public is interested in the bird count and asks many questions. Christmas bird counts have been around for a very long time . They were at one time known as Boxing Day bird counts and were held rigidly on Boxing Day. The first bird counts originated from hunting. On Boxing Day people would go out and shoot as many birds as possible. The birds were identified and counted and the guy who shot the most was the winner. Gradually the idea of just counting live birds took over and the counts were used to provide a general trend in bird populations. The bird tally was coordinated across North America.

      People sometimes ask how accurate our count is . It isn't accurate. It's a rough estimate but when done over a long period of time is a valuable statistic about the health of bird populations. So you ask how do I know I don't count the same bird twice? I don't know. Chickadees are usually in a flock of roughly 20 birds. If chickadees are flying across a forest opening you count them flying in one direction. If they come from the other direction they are probably birds you have already counted. Many times we do not actually see the bird but identify it by it's song. A 20 m spruce tree is difficult to observe all nooks and crannies. Some birds will keep moving through that tree and do not show themselves.  Weather makes a difference in the count. One count day was very stormy and I did not count.Very few birds would have been active as they stay close to cover to keep warm.

     I have counted the same area near my house for  long time. I know about how many species I will find in that area. The odd time that there is a different species is a bonus. From time to time I will count a brown creeper. Creepers are not very common and very hard to spot. I can also tell if black backed three toed woodpeckers are about by observing spruce trees that have been used as a food source. These woodpeckers are very quiet and hard to spot even if you know they are in the area.

     The Christmas Bird count is taking place Dec. 20 in the Red Deer area. We'd really like people to join us. Birding experience is not necessary. We will put you with an experienced birder. Phone the Nature Center to get information. 346-2010

Monday, November 23, 2009

More Twitter

       My last post indicates that I am an inexperienced rookie when it comes to Twitter. I explained how I got on to Twitter. I had certainly thought about Twitter before I signed up.

      My past with computers is a little odd. I was a teacher and most schools bought computers when they first became available. Our school started with Apple iie's. Looking back they weren't much ,but at the time they were much more than we had before. Our school upgraded slowly and on an irregular basis. By the time I retired we were on the internet.

     When I retired I did not have a computer at home. One of my volunteer positions gave me an opportunity to use computers and it was my first exposure to PCs. I found PCs easier than Apples although no offense meant to Apple. I used computers at the library and my daughter's house. My daughter did anything that was complicated for me. I had computers at home now but was not on the net.

      When my daughter moved I got internet at my house. That has improved my computer skills greatly. I got my daughter to help me set up Hiawatha House before she left. It was a piece of cake to set it up but took much more time to master some of the options.

     I recently started a Facebook page. I had been very cool toward Facebook, but one of my friends spoke very highly about it. I checked Facebook out. As soon as I saw most of my relatives on it , I had to start a page and it has been a delight ever since. I also didn't really see the need for Twitter. Time will tell if I find Twitter useful and interesting.

      So I have been slow to develop my computer skills. I'm no expert, but learning computer skills has really kept me challenged which is so necessary as one ages.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I've Become a "Twit"

     Well, maybe I've been a twit before now? People's opinions may vary!

     The "old boy"  on Hiawatha House recently signed up for Twitter. It was extremely simple. A few things filled in and there it Twitter account. It was also easy to follow the mechanics of Twitter so in no time I had Twittered myself! I had also picked out a neat background pattern and text color to coordinate nicely.Then I picked up a couple of my friends so that I had followers and could really Twitter. Lesson II was very easy.Too easy maybe?

     The call to Twitter happened when a board I'm on decided to set up an account to communicate with the membership and the board itself. I was trusted with the keys of the kingdom. In other words I was given the pass word  and told to feel my way around and find out how things worked. I found the site easily enough. Then I had to sign in as a user. I came up with a user name? I also filled in a little more information. The original Twitter site seemed to have disappeared. I looked for it and was told the site could  not be  found. I puzzled my puzzler for quite awhile and tried a few different things. No way. I could not find the original site.
So ends lesson number I. 

     It slowly started to sink in that what I had done is take over the organization"s shiny new Twitter site as my own! End of lesson number III.

       Lesson number IV. Twitter is not idiot proof.

    Now it's always been my policy to admit very quickly that I have screwed up. I informed the board of my error.

     So maybe I've been a twit for longer than I thought? I believe that to say I have recently become a twit would be somewhat incorrect.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Child's Remembrance

With this week's Remembrance observations, I have been thinking back to what I actually remember about WWII. If you visited Hiawatha House earlier this week, you saw a simple acknowledgement of Remembrance Day. A radio station I listen to was asking people what they thought about during the minute of silence. Many interesting calls came into the station. We not only remember those who died , but what freedom was won, and how we enjoy it because of their efforts. Too often we do not appreciate that the freedoms we enjoy were won at great cost.

This topic also got me thinking back to what I remember about WWII. I was born in Oct. 1939, a few weeks after the war started. Of course, I do not remember the early part of the war.

I vividly remember some things about those times. Keep in mind that they are from a child's perspective. We lived about 40 kms from a special airport which was set up to train pilots. It was known as the Dafoe Airport. The area we lived in was flat prairie with few cloudy days. I remember the noisy yellow Harvards flying over our farmyard. I always hoped that they would land in the yard and pick me up and take me for a ride. Many times they came over at treetop level. (Our farm was surrounded by a shelter belt.) Sometimes they were flying in formation. For a four or five year old it was very exciting to see.

My younger brother and I would listen to the news and turn to each other and say "German,German,German", as the news was always about the Germans. This caused us some consternation as we were of German heritage, and heard the German language in our home almost daily.

We were also involved with wrapping parcels which my mother made to send to her brother and other relatives who were overseas. She would put in some baked goodies and maybe socks, toothpaste and other personal items. We probably weren't of much help to her, but she involved us, and as a result I remember some of those things.

At the end of the war my brother and I were again listening to the radio as reports were given describing troop ships arriving and unloading. We always wondered if Uncle Ernie was getting off the ship. Of course, very few people knew when their family members were actually returning.

We did travel by train occasionally, and in those times the trains were loaded with people in the forces. We found the people in uniform to be very exciting.

My wife was born in England and spent the war years there . She remembers different things. The rationing of food was a large issue for her. She remember the blackouts and her Mickey Mouse gas mask that she was issued. She also remembers some bombs which landed near her home, and the fires which were caused by them.

My memories are only snapshots of incidents which occurred . I often wonder how other children were influenced, and if they were traumatized by what they saw and heard at such a young age.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Berlin Wall...My Personal Connection

The picture of the Berlin wall falling twenty years ago tonight is still crystal clear in my mind. It was a turning point in history. I was glued to the television and could hardly believe what I saw. There was doubt throughout the whole evening as we did not know if the army and/or police would come out and attack the crowd. There was the odd camera shot of police around corners and behind buildings, but they did not attempt to disperse the crowd. Later, we saw pictures of police officers abandoning their posts and some even joining the crowd in celebration. It was truly a momentous night.

The personal connection is a bit of a stretch, but I really like this story...
My wife toured Europe with four friends in the early sixties. These were the days when you really could "see Europe on five dollars a day". They hitch-hiked into West Berlin. You had to be picked up at a certain spot, and then drive the Autobahn through to West Berlin without stopping. A very friendly West German picked them up, and not only found lodging for them, but toured them around the city. It was a very fortunate contact, and my wife kept in touch with him for many years afterwards.

She remembers the beauty of the city and seeing the wall. One thing that shocked her, however, was how the wall was built through the midddle of a church. She was also struck by the crosses and flowers which marked places where people died as they were trying to escape East Germany by climbing the wall.

The kicker in her trip to West Berlin was that the whole time she was there, the Cuban Missile Crisis was taking place. Of course, they knew nothing about these events. They were in a foreign country and were not able to follow the news (not that she was much interested in current events to begin with). However, the trip had a major influence on her life.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Rabbits are Turning White

A few posts ago I wrote something on "Frost on the Pumpkin". Now, this was late September, and the frost was, shall we say, light. That is to say, there were one or two degrees of frost for a few hours in the morning.

Now we are at another level of frost. We've had lows close to -20C and days where the high was below freezing. With temperatures and daylight changing, there are obvious and not so obvious changes to plants, animals and birds.

One change which has always brought me some enjoyment is the rabbit changing to white. As a child there were often hundreds of jack rabbits (white I lived, and their change in color was a highlight for a small child. It marked a very definite change in the seasons. It indicated that any time now, it could become very cold for prolonged periods of time and snow usually began to stay.

This week when I was delivering papers, I found a rabbit under a shrub just in front of a subscriber's door. I was less than a meter away from the rabbit and it did not flush. So I thought I'd have a little chat with the old boy. Still, he (or she) did not move. I put the paper in the mail box and left. This particular rabbit was just about all white. We don't have any snow cover yet, but he was still hard to see. In a few more days this particular animal will be completely white.

Once again, one of my favorite fall changes has given me its pleasure.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Time: She Changed

(Now there's a title that could have more than one meaning!)

But the time, she really did change this weekend . We dutifully turned our time pieces back one hour either before we went to bed or soon after we got up.

We go through this each fall. There is great publicity around this time and topic. Newspapers, radio, TV and computers remind us many times that the change is approaching. Some people become confused about whether they are gaining or losing. So each fall there are mental games we play with ourselves over the change of time. Year after year we put ourselves through the experience of time change when we go through the house and change all time pieces.

Now comes the part of getting used to the hour difference. I was out in the woods without a watch. Something didn't feel right. The end of the day seemed to be coming too quickly. Meal times didn't seem right. When I went to bed it seemed very late and I was tired and wanted to go to sleep. Then I woke up an hour early! Eventually, we become used to the light in our pattern of behaviour. For a day or two we feel awkward about the time, and then life goes on as usual.

All this comes from someone who hasn't worn a watch for twelve years...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tomato Recipe

A few posts back I wrote a piece about how much I liked tomatoes. I referred to a recipe, but didn't have it . So here's the super recipe for eggs and tomato.

Baked Eggs Bulgarian Style
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tomato
4 oz feta cheese
2 eggs
Pinch each of paprika, salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350F(180C) Pour olive oil into a cold oven proof pan or baking dish while someone else slices the tomato. Place slices of tomato into pan/dish and crumble half the feta cheese over top. Break the two eggs over the tomato and feta and sprinkle the remaining feta, paprika,salt and pepper. Bake uncovered until the eggs are set and feta has melted...about 20 minutes.In the meantime chop fresh oregano . Just before serving sprinkle oregano on top of dish.

This recipe comes from James Barber (the Urban Peasant) from his cookbook Cooking for Two.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Authors Valued

It's time to acknowledge that I have two valued authors who help me on Hiawatha house. Ialso hope that they will post their own work from time to time to make the blog more interesting.

Jock Mackenzie joined me a few months ago. I had taught with Jock and he was also assistant administrator and as a result supervised me. I valued his observations as he always left me feeling supported and left a few tips to help me. I was looking for someone to help me with some editing and since I had confidence and trust in Jock I requested his time. He has edited, but mostly he's given me inspiration and topics that get me on a roll. He produces his own which I follow and highly recomend to you.

MK joined me last week after much pleading on my part (seriously, not THAT much pleading). MK was a student of Jock's for gr.7,and is actually my daughter. I have worked with her before and she's a stickler on form, punctuation and sentence structure. Some of my long rambling awkward sentence structure will have to go! I hope she will post from time to time as she has opinions which are well supported. Maybe there will be some American perspective as she resides near Chicago. She has agreed to try her best to check in from time to time and review postings...

So welcome to Jock and MK.

Any good blog needs a mascot so Maggie has agreed to be the mascot for Hiawatha house. Maggie says "hello" to all and enjoys keeping up with her grampa's blog postings. Maybe one of these days she'll post a message of her own.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Julie and Julia

Just when you've got a couple of things lined up to post to Hiawatha House, whammo! Something else comes along that just has to be posted.

Last night I went to the movie "Julie and Julia". I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had read articles about the movie and Meryl Streep's performance before , but I had forgotten about the movie. Of course, I wandered into the movie not knowing what it was, so the surprise was that much better when I found I was watching a fine movie.

It's interesting how the plot was set up with Julia Child's biography, and then Julie trying to write a blog by cooking Child's recipes for a year. There were some similarities. Both had conflicts with publishers . However , both dealt differently with challenges. Julia Child tended to bumble through the challenges while Julie worried intensely. Neither one knew much about publishers. Both had supportive husbands. Julie and Julia were almost at opposite ends of the societal scale. Julia cruised in high society while Julie lived in a crummy flat above a pizza joint. Julie just scraped by economically while Julia lived the life of luxury. It was a unique way to cover Child's biography, which on it's own I think would have been a tough sell.

What really caught my attention was the blog aspect which carried the plot along. Since I am keenly interested in blogs, that made the movie much more interesting. I could identify with the struggling blogger.

So if you want to watch a very funny movie, see "Julie and Julia".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Write...Then Research?

      Yes I've just committed this error. I wrote a blog and posted on Hiawatha House without doing research first. When I researched immediately after posting the blog I found all kinds of in formation on Theodore Taylor and his novel  The Cay.

      I had wanted to something about tolerance and understanding. I was using The Cay to make my point. I had used the novel for many years and with numerous grade 7 classes. I found it a real gem as it was written in such a way that it appealed to kids on many levels.

     Now most of the information I discovered wouldn't have changed much in my post. I was just amazed at how much material was out there. I found numerous book reviews.

     I discovered that many teachers are still using The Cay for novel study. I retired in 97 and many teachers I taught with were not using it any more.

      I found out that Theodore Taylor had died.

    Most surprising I found that the Cay had at one time been banned!

     So yes, I learned a lesson. Do some research before you open your mouth on Hiawatha House.

My Ship is Sold

My ship didn't come in today. It was sold! In 1978 I saw a freighter canoe for sale at an auction. I was actually looking for 12 foot fishing boat. I knew what a freighter canoe was and it went for the right price, so I became the proud owner.

Not many people know what a freighter canoe is . Those of us who know them have a strong affection for them. Freighter canoes are larger than the double-pointed paddling canoes. They have a flat stern and you can attach an outboard motor for power. They are much wider than regular canoes. These vessels draw very little water and as a result can be propelled with very little power at a good rate of speed. They are easy to handle and smooth riding. I have used them on lakes , rivers and the sea. Aboriginal people from coast to coast like to use them as they were reasonably priced , very sturdy and easily repaired . And you guessed it; they had a large capacity for cargo.

I first encountered the freighter canoe when I was teaching in Inuvik, NWT. One of the best trips I ever had was going down the Great Bear River. This river drains Great Bear Lake into the Mackenzie River. There were 21 miles of rapids, which we floated down with the outboard motor turned off. I then met the canoe again on the far northern coast of Quebec. There we ran up and down Wakeham Bay and out on to Hudson Strait. In all cases it handled beautifully. Many fish, seals and moose carcasses could be transported with ease.

As a family we used the canoe on a lake where we had a cabin.  It was an odd looking boat on central Alberta lakes , but it cruised effortlessly. The time had come to part with the ship as we were no longer using it. Someone from Thunder Bay saw my ad, knew these canoes well, and came out and picked it up. Our family had lots of fun times, and of course it was always referred to as "the ship".

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tolerance and Understanding

      Tolerance and understanding is a topic that can get me going and fill Hiawatha House with a few posts. A few posts ago I wrote Visible Minority and it got me thinking about differences which we encounter from time to time.

     When I was teaching I used the small novel, The Cay, with my grade seven classes. This novel had several obvious themes that made it easy to discuss racial prejudice at a level grade seven students could easily understand.

     The novel was about an eleven year old boy who gets shipwrecked in the Carribean. He washes up on a small island with an elderly black man who was part of the crew. The boy had received a head injury and was blinded. The elderly black man is skilled in survival skills and helps the boy to survive, as they were not found for about nine months. Old Timothy helps the boy through his loneliness and homesickness, all the while teaching him about racial tolerance and understanding. For a little boy who was quite prejudiced , he had much to learn. One quote from Old Timothy that I really liked was that, "We are all the same color inside." That quote really made kids think about things from another perspective.

     For a first novel study, I would read most of the story so that we could stop and leisurely discuss at opportune times. Students were given a couple of comprehension and understanding questions to make sure that they were really following the story and not just having a nap. Most kids were on task as they found the story interesting and they wanted to find out if Timothy and the boy were rescued. There was also a very old movie version of the story that we could watch after we finished reading the novel.

     I hope that many of my students picked up a few things and were able to see others as human beings who are either good or bad and see individual characteristics in each person, rather than label somebody with a set of general characteristics gathered from prejudice.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Obama Rocks!

I fully agree with the choice of the Nobel Peace Prize going to President Barak Obama. Now, I know there are some who disagree with the choice and some of their reasons hold water. Yes, he has not yet achieved much in the way of concrete results...

However, I think that the total change in rhetoric is 100% necessary. The talk of the country had to change from one of "I'll beat everybody up " to one of "we will cooperate, compromise, succeed, and live peacefully".

Obama inherited two wars that he cannot just walk away from. I don't think he will start any new wars. He has to work on his own country first and gain its support for peace in the world. With so many generals with much experience he will have to work hard. Someone once said generals make great leaders, but it's hard to get them to follow. Some serious following has to be done to gain world peace.

I think Obama will be the person to bring about a much greater world peace.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Arctic Front Hits Birds

On Oct. 6 an Arctic front pushed down over western Canada. There were gusty winds to 90kph with snow which accumulated to about 2cm where I live. To say the least, this was nasty, nasty weather.

I have done several posts lately on bird migration and began thinking about how such unseasonally inclement weather affects birds. Fortunately, at this time of year most of the song bird migration is over. A few laggards may be found. A few of the hardier sparrow species are still here. I recently wrote about the dark eyed juncos cavorting through my shrubbery. Juncos tend to show up to feeders in dirty weather. In the worst of the weather I would still hear crows in the early morning. In fact, on Oct. 6 I saw crows putting on awesome flying displays as they flew into the raw wind and caught air currents which form over escarpments.

On Oct. 10 I traveled out of town. Some ponds were frozen, but larger bodies of water still had open water. Larger lakes and rivers were ice free. So the water fowl still had open water for their activities. Fields still provided excellent food for ducks and geese . I saw numerous flocks of geese feeding in the stubble.

I find that my feeder birds tend to disappear when storms like this occur. When the weather calms down birds return to the feeder. I'm never sure if my birds have been blown out of the neighborhood and I have somebody else's birds? Today I had many birds back at the feeder paticularly, red breasted nuthatches. Undoubtedly, some birds perish when the weather changes so rapidly. However, most birds survive and carry on for another day for their own enjoyment.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Joyful Juncos

This week there have been about 20 dark eyed juncos around my yard. They are exuberant and joyful as the feed and fly through the shrubbery.

Juncos are migrating through this area but are in no great hurry. Juncos can be observed quite late into fall and early winter. They are sometimes counted in the Christmas bird count here. For now they find an abundance of food. They eat seeds and insects found on the ground. They scratch with both feet at the same time so this is a very energetic action. These days they seem to fly at each other and chase through the bushes. The chase is usually brief. Juncos have two or three outer tail feathers which are white so when they fly there is brilliant flash of white. At most times of the year the junco is a very quiet, hard to notice bird. You often hear them rather than see them. If you stand still, they may come right up to you as one did to me when it fed less than a meter from my foot.

Juncos belong to the same family as our native sparrows. At one time they were identified as two separate species...the slate colored and the Oregon. Now they are considered as one species with some variation in color. Juncos are dark gray on top and have a white or off white belly. There is a very definite line across the breast which separates the gray breast and white belly. Some have a definite brown tinge in the gray. The females are a lighter gray and the young are streaked so you will find a certain amount of variation in the same flock of birds. See Sibley's for detailed descriptions of juncos.

Juncos have a habit of appearing at or feeders in very inclement weather. Our weather has been much cooler and windy this week. Therefore , I have been entertained by some energetic, joyful migrating juncos

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Visible Minority

      A few days ago I became a visible minority on a friend's face book page. More about that later.

     In the 60's I taught in aboriginal and Inuit settlements. In some locations students were 100% aboriginal or Inuit and other places up to 75% aboriginal. Standing in front of a class it never really sunk in that I was the minority as I was in the position of power. One day an incident occurred and it sunk in . That experience was life altering.

     I was in a small aboriginal settlement and went to house to look for someone. When I knocked on the door I heard someone inside say , "It's a white man!" That really hit me. I was labelled.

After that experience I had a lesson for the rest of my life. I learned to look at other people as individuals rather than a group and attach labels to the whole group. It made a huge difference in the way I lived the remainder of my life . No matter who it is I had to look at them as an individual who has unique characteristics. We are all made up of a wide range of good and bad characteristics. This combination makes us an individual. We have to be able to recognize the individual by his or her traits.

     Recently someone who I know quite, well asked me to join his face book page. When I looked at his list of friends I was the only one who was different. I have always looked at visible minority situations for myself as a learning opportunity which will broaden my understanding of people. Many times I have felt supported and welcomed when I found myself in a minority situation.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Frost on the Pumpkin

Now I'm not really sure if the saying in my title is accurate. I also wonder what it really means. Where did it come from? Maybe some of my readers can comment on frost on the pumpkin.

What it means to me is that we've had the first killing frost of the season. Two nights ago the temperature went to minus8 C or between 10 to 15 F. For gardeners, like myself, this means a major shift in gardening activities. Up to now we have been nursing some things along to gain some more blooms or larger yield of fruit. Some early maturing plants we have cleaned up.

Now we have to get serious with fall gardening work. It's over for another year. Now we begin to remove plants that have been killed by frost. We carefully remove all plant material so that any insects or diseases are removed from the area. The compost bin is built up so that the plant refuse decomposes and can be returned to the soil. Garden soil has to be turned . I found this year that the soil is extremely hard and I'm adding peat moss and shavings that I get from a friend who does lathe work. Flower and perennial beds must be worked up and reconditioned.

Last all the tools and equipment must be cleaned repaired and stored away before we are finished.

I didn't know gardening was so much work until I wrote this list? However, I enjoy every bit of it through out the season.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Thanks Reg

I have written many times about people in my life from my teaching experience. My fellow students were also important to me. Last week I lost one of my classmates.

I knew Reg before I went to school with him . He would work for my Dad on the farm when Dad would hire him and some other kids to pick stones off the fields. Dad always wanted Reg because he was a good worker.

I spent my high school years in Reg's class. If you remember from a previous post it was a one room high school. The teacher would give a brief lesson and tell us what he wanted done. Then, we were on our own. Many times we needed help. Reg was our "go to guy". Reg was always the top of the class and was able to understand the material from the teacher's explanation and textbook information. Since Reg was the leader, he set the bar and the rest of the class were moved to do better.

Reg was a quiet kid, but you always wanted him on your side for baseball or football.

After high school we both left the area. The last time I saw him he was doing his engineering assignment in a taxi he was driving so that he could make money to pay for his university fees and living. I never met him after that.

I did contact him by email when it was our 50th year after finishing high school. His reply was warm and supportive. We contacted each other yearly after that.

So even though we did not share a close life, it was still sad to hear that we lost him. People influence us for the better during our whole life even though we do not have contact.

Thanks Reg, for the challenge and support you gave my life.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall Bird Migration

In my last post I covered the antics of robins in Central Alberta as they migrate south. I should have first written about bird migration in general.

Migrating birds can be divided into large groups . There are water birds, boreal birds and grassland birds. In each group there are a large number of species and a wide variety of migration habits. To complicate matters many birds, particularly the males, look different than their spring plumage. In the fall I keep the Sibley's bird book nearby as the spring and fall plumage are covered as well as juveniles. Identifying birds in the fall is challenging as you see a bird hat looks familiar, but you can't quite place them. This is because the fall plumage is different.

Some of these birds leave us by the end of August. Others spend more time here as there is abundant food. Much has to be learned about migration, but birds seem to move in a narrow time line each year no matter what the conditions are . I keep a yard bird list . Each year the birds return at about the same time .

Boreal birds, such as warblers , busily work their way south by feeding in trees, brush and plants. They feed in the daytime and fly at night . Many times they crash into tall buildings and are found the next day at the bottom of the building. While they are in our yards they are interesting to watch. In my yard the most common warbler is the yellow rump. They feed on aphids on the back of leaves.

Water bird migrations are spectacular as we see the flocks of geese in their familiar vee formation. Ducks are in loose flocks and tend to fly rapidly. These birds feed for weeks in central Alberta grain fields.

Once again these birds are consuming huge amounts of high energy foods . They are also conditioning themselves for major flight. As a result the birds are energetic and we see all kinds of antics which attract our attention.

My childhood was spent in central Saskatchewan where there are main flyways for ducks and geese. When the wetlands were full of water it was perfect habitat for these birds. Sad to say many of these wetlands have been cleared and plowed for farmland.

A migration that most people try to ignore is the flight of crows. All through September we have massive numbers of crows which fly out to fields each day to feed on seeds and insects. In the evening they fly back to a common roosting area.

Several places on the edge of the Rocky Mountains provide perfect places to watch the migration of eagles . If you sit in the one spot you can count many eagles in one day.

So folks get out and enjoy the fall migration. These birds will soon leave us and we will be left with the few hardy species of winter birds.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Where have All the Robins Come From?

Somebody has just asked Hiawatha House about the abundance of robins wheeling around their yard . I can tell you about your robins and many other things about robins that you haven't been thinking about.

Every year at this time in Red Deer , Alberta, Canada people ask me about all the crazy robins zooming around their yards . What is going on with these crazy birds? They don't act crazy at other times of the year.

To answer these questions you have to back up a bit . I like to back pack above he tree line in the Rocky Mountains. What's the most common bird you see? You guessed it . The robin. For three years I lived on the Mackenzie Delta, which is above the arctic circle. Robins nested there. Now with global warming, robins nest at Sachs Harbor on Banks Island which is 450km further north than the Mackenzie Delta. We are used to thinking of the robin as a garden variety urban bird, which it is, but it is also very widely distributed. We usually think of it nesting in trees ,but they very readily nest on the ground. I have found robins' nests on the ground in Red Deer where there are many trees.

So two things happen at this time of year. First, robins are migrating south. Second, the population is greatly expanded by all the young produced during the summer. These birds usually nest twice in the summer so there is a tremendous population of birds of the year. They are feeding on ripe fruit which has a high sugar content so they are full of energy. Robins are also quiet feisty and aggressive so they chase each other around . This is when they crash into your windows and is commonly why people ask about the dizzy robins.

The birds from the north and the mountains gather here because of an abundant food supply. They slowly work there way south . Some go far south for the winter and some not so far south if they can find a good food supply . Some robins stay at Red Deer all winter. Most years we have robins included in our winter bird count. I have seen robins in early Feb. when it's minus 30C .They feed on Saskatoons and rose hips. They seem to be big birds as their feathers are fluffed up to keep them warm.

At this time of year there are many other smaller birds in the trees and bushes and they are overlooked because of the antics of the robins. They are warblers and sparrows and will soon leave the area . More about them later. Let's just keep this one to robins.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reflections on Hiawatha House

      I started Hiawatha House on Aug. 27 ,08. For my first blog I put down some of my hopes and expectations as to what I wanted to achieve with Hiawatha house. I reread the first piece to see how much of what I wanted to do was accomplished. It was interesting. Some topics have not been dealt with while other things popped up unexpectedly.

Mostly the experience involved a tremendous and steep learning curve. The beginning challenges were with the mechanics of the blog. I am still finding new devices. It took me a long time to discover how to put pictures in the blog as I was too proud to ask. Now I have to improve on my photography game instead of borrowing pictures from my friends. The discovery of color was astounding! Examining my writing was eye opening. I will work on some areas to try and make things clearer.

      The topics to write on conveniently arose at the right time. Things happened or ideas that were rolling around in my head became ready for writing. Most things are pretty well in my head by the time I want to write. Interesting events seem to occur from time to time andI look forward to sharing them with you. The rabbit events really did happens.

       The audience is still mainly a mystery! When you write, you usually have some sense of who your audience is. Until I get more feedback, the audience is mainly a guessing game. I do appreciate my readers even though they are quite anonymous. I have bugged my friends and relatives to read Hiawatha House and so have some response . My brother had a good laugh recalling our "rhubarb fights". His wife had a chuckle over the line of some little fellow usually ended up crying.

   I know the past and what happened. I have some ideas of what I'd like to do next. I will try to push myself to deal with some of the topics which I wrote very little about . They will take some research. Looking back next year at this time will probably provide some more discovery.
"You can read the future,
Like a fairy tale."
From one of ABBA's songs