Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bannock: A World Food.

    A few days ago Darlin posted on baking some bannock and she had some awesome pictures of her production. Now I like bannock so her post got me thinking about my experiences with bannock.

     The basics of bannock are flour, water, baking powder and salt. After that, all bets are off. There are literally thousands of bannock recipes.The things that go with your bannock are endless. The history of bannock is very, very old. Unleavened bread is mentioned in the bible and has a place in religious practices. In biblical times , I don't think they could run to the store for some Flieschman's yeast or pick up any Blue Ribbon baking powder either. All cultural groups have some form of bannock. Aboriginals had a form of bannock before the Europeans came. They had certain roots the were ground up to make something similar to flour. 

    Baking powder biscuits are a form of bannock and they are baked in the oven. Many bannock recipes can be baked. My Mom furiously baked some baking powder biscuits when she was caught without bread and someone was coming to visit.

    Now to get to my experience with bannock. I was exposed to bannock when I spent 5 years in the Arctic.  The Inuit and Indians used bannock on a regular daily basis in their homes but their experience with bannock was really when they were out in the country. They would take a small bag of flour and baking powder with them and they were set. To make a bannock they usually made a small depression in the flour at the top of the bag. They poured in some water and mixed the flour and water by hand. The dough produced this way was flattened and put into a frying pan with lots of lard. It didn't take long and you had fresh hot bannock. If you had any meat then your meal was complete. For many travelers they started out from home with a bag of bannock. Bannock is very dry so it doesn't freeze. The first time I went out I took my bread sandwich. Guess what? When it came time to eat my  sandwich, it was frozen as hard a steel. It was embarrassing. Someone had to give me some lunch.  Getting back to the flour was sometimes a ghastly mess by the end of the trip.

    I still remember the great taste of bannock. I still remember all the things I put on my bannock...mostly jams and syrup. 

    It's hard to believe that bannock is rarely made since it is such a simple process. It has great taste and leaves a pleasant aroma in your house.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Surprise From the Past

     We steadily go through stuff in the house trying to downsize. For nearly 50 years we have collected things and it is very surprising how much has accumulated.

     This last while we have been tackling book cases...a shelf at a time. I am instructed to go through and pick out what a I don't want. I can make a pretty big pile of "don't wants" in a hurry. My wife will go through a second time and choose ones she doesn't want to part with. I thought that I had thrown out all university texts years ago. There were still lots on the shelves and some of them weren't thrown out this time. 

    I did make some discoveries that were very surprising. I found about a dozen books that I had received as a little kid. Books that were Christmas presents and birthday presents. My Mom's sister was only 12  when I was born. She spoiled her nephews rotten and she still does today when she's 85 and her nephews are 73. Our Aunt gave us books for gifts. She found a series that we liked. Mom would read these books to us. Once we were all ready for bed we would crawl on Moms's bed. She would read and we were absolutely quiet . When about half of us had fallen asleep she would quit and that was bedtime.

    Like many people I left home right after high school. I did not have a permanent residence. Over the years the things I had as  a kid disappeared. Once I had settled down my Mom said one day, "These are the only things of yours that are left here." She gave me the books a I found the other day. My brothers established homes before I did and took things that they had as kids to their houses. Not much was left when I established roots.

     So the other day when I found these books it was like rediscovering a very ancient past. To say the least, these were books I didn't throw away.

The books were always neatly written in with a greeting. I anybody familiar with the Sugar Creek Gang series?

My 1950 birthday present.

In the country schools we would draw names and give that person a Christmas gift which was presented at the Christmas concert. Wesley was in the grade ahead of me,

Hans Brinker doesn't appear to have been a gift as there is no inscription in it. I read this a couple of times. As you see it's in pretty bad shape.

Sleep tight!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mid Winter Hues

      The other day I went out to take pictures of the boys playing in the snow. I was carefully picking my way back over the snow the boys had packed so I wouldn't get a boot full of snow. I was going through some shrubbery that the boys had used for hiding and a supply of spears. I got snagged up in the shrubs and had to back out to untangle myself. I happened to get a close look at some tree bark and said , "That's pretty interesting!"

     It's mid winter and the days are getting longer and the shadows are shorter. Tree bark and seed heads have been frozen, inactive and dried out. You get to look at tree bark that you would never see in the summer and besides it would have a much greener tinge to it. So before I took a second charge through the shrubbery I decided to try a few pictures. Things have definitely lightened up since the winter solstice. Yesterday the sun rose at 8:23 and set at 5:12 which gives us 8 hours and 49 minutes of sun. On the solstice we had 7 hours and 39 minutes of sun.

Lilacs that look much different compared to June.

Lilac seeds that haven't been eaten by the Pine grosbeaks.

Lilac seed heads and buds ready for next June. I didn't notice the buds until I  looked at the photo on the computer.

Snow rats hiding in the shade.

So ever so gradually we are inching towards spring.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Snow Rats

     Snow rats? Yes. I thought if there could be "rug rats" then there could be snow rats. These three boys are in kindergarten and gr. one. They had a Friday afternoon off from school These three and one more played outside in the snow all afternoon.
One of my buds is under there

    I skied around them and stopped to visit a couple of times. When i went home I came back with my camera and took pictures. They hollered at their Mom, " A boy took our picture." Do I like these kids. They know me well and see me often and I am still a boy!
I think somebody left his teeth at home

    It was about minus 3 C with brilliant sunshine. They were probably soaking wet. There was not a parent hovering over these boys as they played in the snow. I classify these boys as free range kids. they are allowed to be on their own. They were obviously not sitting in the house with a video game or watching TV. I wish more kids would spend the whole afternoon playing.
Pretty healthy looking boys!
These guys were never still all afternoon.
I wish I had a hat like those.
Snow rat tracks

    So one old boy and four little guys had the snow to themselves for a pleasant sunny afternoon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Making Dough

     Yesterday, one of the bloggers I follow posted on making cinnamon buns. Now cinnamon buns are one of my favorites. My Mom, who passed away in 1973, made awesome cinnamon buns. I can still remember them because they were so good. 

     So the cinnamon buns reminded me of some experiences people had making home made bread. When I went to the Arctic in 1963 very little fresh food was available. We were given a ration with a year's supply of food. That didn't include fresh bread. We had 200 lbs of flour and a bunch of yeast. I was single and bought bread at $2.50 a loaf which was an unheard of price. So the women who came north baked their own bread. Probably none of these young women had baked bread before they came north. First time experiences working with yeast and dough were quite challenging. There were many famous flops before there was any remotely edible bread. One girl admitted that when she threw her first results out that the dog wouldn't eat the product.

    It wasn't all doom and gloom. For my second posting I was married. My wife made bread and she was very competent. We had an oil stove with a shelf above the stove top. The temperature on the shelf was perfect for rising dough so we had spectacular bread. I still remember eating great tasting bread.

   The best batch of bread we had was when I was involved in the process. My wife had started mixing a bread dough. She was the settlement nurse and was called away. She told me to keep stirring the bread and add a little flour once in a while. She said she wouldn't be long and not to stop mixing. Well, you guessed it. she was delayed . When she got back there I was still mixing the dough. She rescued me and she claims it was the best bread we ever made.

   I'm sure that if bread making wasn't so laborious that very little bread would be sold in stores or else they would have to significantly improve their product.

    Ooh! The delicious smell of home made bread!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How Do I Look on the Inside?

    I know how I look on the outside. Some hair is missing. Some hair is white. The face is wrinkled. Some large blotches are on my face because of sun exposure. I don't see as well as I did. My hearing is certainly impaired. A few of my teeth are missing. You know what I mean. We are familiar with our exterior appearance. Sometimes there's some disconnect with what's in our head as far as our looks are concerned compared to what we see in the mirror.  Seeing a recent picture of ourselves can really shock us sometimes.

    So my curiosity says I wonder what conditions are like on the inside. Do things have wrinkles? Do things turn color? It's hard to say if things turn color when we can't see them. Do things sag on the inside? Do things become misshapen like my mouth?  Do all things run tickety boo or are somethings a little stiff and misshapen like my hands?

    As one ages and you see the changes and  there comes a time when  you start to really wonder, " What's going on inside.?" I recently posted on Alzheimer's. How has our brain changed in a physical way? 

    For most of these things we never get a look. Now with modern technology we sometimes get a glimpse. A few years ago I had some kind of scope test where there was a good picture of my esophagus. There are supposed to be good healthy ridges which help to move the food down. The ridges on me are pretty well worn down and smooth. That was cool to see. By the way I don't have any trouble getting food down. So I started to think, "How many other parts  might be worn down?" 

    So I'm not serious about these conditions. I'm not worried. I'm just curious. I hope I don't make you worried. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Snow: What a Big Surprise!

    Today we received about 15 - 20 cm ( 5 in.) of snow. Light fluffy snow started falling early this morning. Snow had been forecast but it was to be very little. We missed the nasty stuff that went through Saskatchewan, Manitoba and God knows where else. Saskatchewan and Manitoba had some very nasty weather with high winds. Roads were closed. Large snow drifts were formed. Cars were abandoned on streets and roads.

    This was just a very quiet and gentle fall of snow. It was pleasant. Even the shoveling was easy.
When life gives you!
This stump with the roof gives a measure of the snow.
The yard light is loaded with snow. I wish I could say the snow bent the lamp but it didn't.
My two meter birch tree is well protected with snow.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Alzheimer's: The Big "A" Word

     A few days ago I read a blog about keeping warm in the winter. I made the comment that "selective amnesia " helps me keep warm. The blogger is quick with a comeback and said, "Don't forget your coat."  I got a good chuckle from the reply. Then I stopped and thought that there was a very serious side to to the comment. People do forget their coat and go outside. Some of them are caught but unfortunately some are not found and perish. These are people with dementia. 

    Now before I go any further, I am not an expert on dementia. I follow two blogs which cover Alzheimer's from time to time and they are excellent.

    Today there was a column in our local paper in Alshiemer's so it really got me thinking. I am 73 years old and at an age when dementia is all to common. Seniors my age worry about dementia. We have seen relatives and friends deal with dementia and it's not a pretty sight. It's a challenge  for caregivers and is certainly difficult for the sufferer.

     The gist of the column today was that there's no cure or prevention for dementia, but there may be things we could do to possibly delay the onset of dementia or make it's progress less critical. Naturally I looked at the seven suggestions and considered how I stack up. Have I been living the right life?

    The first suggestion was to have been cognitively  active. Will my reading and  doing puzzles be any good for me? How about "free cell?

   Next, I've never been a person with high stress level . I was a middle school teacher and I did not let stress get to me.  I learned to deal with stress .

 I do stay connected with people. I volunteer and I like to visit.

   I don't have high blood pressure , diabetes obesity or high cholesterol. These things make it difficult to adapt to new situations.

    I am very active. Today I cross country skied for half an hour. After I finish this post I will go for a half hour walk.

    The one I have a problem with is concussion or repeated blows to the head. I've never had a concussion that I know of but I bang my head on things regularly. 

   So out of the six strategies I pass on five. The sixth I have problems with.

    Will this be enough to help me delay Alzheimer's? Will I be one of those people who get Alzheimer's?

    So we worry about dementia. It's common with about 750000 people in Canada with Alzheimer's. We can only hope that we do not get Alzheimer's. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Another Great Snow

   Early last evening snow began falling heavily. It was that type of snow that just filled the sky . I had to go to a meeting and found visibility rather limited.  When I came out from the meeting the heavy snow had stopped and there was just the odd lazy snowflake floating down.

    I did not get any pictures last night. I have a few pictures from today. I like to see plants covered with snow that they trap and hold.
The Kerry Wood  Nature Sanctuary

  Today I took pictures at the local nature center.

Shrubs loaded with snow at the back of the Nature Center 
Walkway on the right is barely visible.

   I hope this helps to cool off a few Australians who are burning in the heat.
One more look.

Monday, January 7, 2013

When Do I Turn My Christmas Lights Off?

       I turn my Christmas lights off when Ukrainian Christmas is over. Today is Ukrainian Christmas so my lights will go off tomorrow.
After six weeks the lights will be turned off.

     After I left high school I was always with some Ukrainian people. At Christmas they always talked a great deal about their Christmas celebrations. Ukrainian Christmas is Jan. 7  as it follows the Julian calendar which the Ukrainian Orthodox church uses.

    The Christmas celebration is full of symbolism to remember and celebrate Christ's birth. For me Ukrainian food is awesome. There are 12 courses in the Christmas meal representing the twelve apostles. All dishes are meatless. There are many other celebratory traditions from their rich culture. I will let some one else who is Ukrainian describe the celebration more accurately and fully.

    For me it's the signal to turn off the lights. I like to keep the lights on until the Ukrainians have finished their celebrations.

    Kistos Razdayetsya!

Friday, January 4, 2013

What in the World is Social Justice

    In the last two posts I have thrown around the term social justice. I didn't define social justice. I'm sure that books have been written about social justice but I haven't read them.

    However , I believe in social justice. Since I was a teacher in a middle school classroom for thirty seven years, I long ago understood that there were major differences in people. For example, physical and mental skills varied widely. Learning styles ran a wide gamut. Then we can consider learning difficulties or learning disabilities. All of these folks can succeed and live happy productive lives.

    Okay , what's this got to do with social justice. The playing field, the rules, the opportunities have to be there in a way that makes it fair. Don't set up laws or rules that give an advantage to one group and penalize another group. That's what I've been talking about in the previous two posts. Rules were set up and broken for First Nations people. At one time aboriginals had to have permission to leave the reserve.

   From a wider perspective...the Occupy Movement...taxes can be set up to give certain groups an advantage. The one percent that the Occupy Movement focused on have major advantages because of government regulations. So the income gap between the top incomes and middle incomes keep getting wider. You might say this is an example of Social injustice. Historically women were at a disadvantage in many ways...maternity benefits and leave, wages, pensions...So females had a tougher time to succeed because some of the cards in the deck were stacked against them.

    One example that really upsets me is where subsidies are applied. In many cases it is a license to print money. I'll give you one example. In Alberta oil companies are paid $300.00 per meter to drill an oil well. I can not believe that there is any reason to subsidize rich and profitable oil companies. Do small one man companies ever get a subsidy like that?

    There are some sad stories in Canada. The Chinese at one time were charged a fee for the right to come to this country and work. They were not allowed to bring their families. In WW II the Japanese in Canada had their property confiscated and were sent to work camps. Their property was never returned although 60 years later they received an apology and some compensation. We are again setting up second class workers with the immigration policy that we have for temporary  foreign workers.

    So I see social justice as a policy the gives a fair opportunity for all people to succeed with the skills and abilities they have.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Social Justice: Part Two

    In my last post I named two issues that arose in December. The second is the Idle No More movement.

    Idle No More was started by a couple of women with an  issue out of the last budget where many waterways would not be protected. This means everything to aboriginals when it comes to gathering safe fish. Further down the road, people with recreational property will suffer if the water quality deteriorates. By skillful use of social media their issue caught fire. Things were just ready for this movement to expand.

   When Steven Harper's government came to power, they scrapped the Kelowna agreement which had been agreed to by the previous government. Although the Kelowna agreement was far from perfect it was a movement in the right direction to begin settling major outstanding issues with First Nations. This decision angered aboriginals as it should. Steven Harper continued to treat the whole issue with utter contempt.

    Treaties with first Nations were broken almost as soon as they were signed in the 1800's. Some reserves and much land was taken back by the government. Government agents would check and find no people on a reserve and assume the people didn't want it and quickly took  it back. Aboriginal people were nomadic and had moved huge distances across  their land to survive successfully.  With the reserve system they were imprisoned on their small bit of land. Hunting for food was almost impossible. Aboriginals were were reduced to starving, begging and stealing to have some food. Treaties promised machinery and advice on a farming. This program worked extremely well until some dunderhead decided to stop supplying machinery and advice. Aboriginals were good farmers. Once they lost the machinery farming failed.

    The list of problems with treaties is enormous and the longer the issue drags on the worse it gets.

   So with a long history of disagreements First Nations have with the Canadian Government it's no wonder that the Idle No More movement caught on. So the Idle No More movement has become a major vehicle to publicize issues and urge  Steven Harper to come to his senses and solve some problems.

    Steps Idle No More have been taking have been stepped up when there was no response from Steven Harper. Steven Harper would seem to be sneering at the whole issue.

    I supported the Occupy Movement last year which of course was fighting for social justice. I whole heartedly support the Idle No More movement and hope that they gain some solutions. It would also be hoped that our Prime Minister Steven Harper , would come to his senses and begin a realistic conversation with First Nations People.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Beginning 2013 With a Lack of Social Justice.

      The beginning of 2013 finds Canadians in the midst of a couple of issues which are a result of a lack of social justice. Both of these issues began in December of 2012 but their origins are from hundreds of years ago. One , Chief Teresa Spence's hunger strike, has more recent origins but is more critical. The second, "Idle No more" has origins further back in time but is not in need of immediate attention.

     Chief Teresa Spence had a serious housing problem on her reserve less that a year ago. Prime minister Steven Harper did very little about the situation. A few emergency measures were taken. The band's finances were taken over and chief Spence fought against it as it was not the problem.

     Since then, Steven Harper's spin doctors have taken over. Steven Harper would like us to believe that the Attawapiskat community has had 90 million dollars for housing in the last year. Of course, the spin doctors, with innocent caring eyes, want to know why houses haven't been built. So here's what happened. the 90 million dollars was for the last five years so that's about 16 or so million a year. Now out of that 16 million came education, health and welfare. This left about 4 to 5 million for houses. Now out of the 4 to 5 million house maintenance was taken. So were left with little for housing and in fact nothing as they decided to use all the money on maintenance rather than let the houses fall into disrepair. Now these folks just can't go down to the local Canadian Tire or Rona and get materials to fix their own houses. These stores are not in their community. As a result these houses fall apart quickly.

    Now back to Chief Spence.  For the past year she has been patiently and persistently lobbying the government to expand and improve housing. Nothing was done. Now we are to the winter season again and drastic action is needed. This is where Chief Spence found herself on  hunger strike. 

    So this is a case where social justice is completely lacking. Also lacking is the basic humanity of a Prime Minister who apparently has no concern for certain groups of people. The Prime Minister sees himself as an economist although he has very few economy classes. He's done some reading of material from  the Chicago School of economics. Apparently economists don't have to worry or care about people. They only care about the "economy."

     So it's a very sad start to 2013 where we have a person who is near death because she's fighting for housing for her people and a group of people who have very poor housing for the winter.

    Please support Chief Teresa Spence.