December 8, 2020 I have been sorting a few digital images from the past year and decided to add some of them here as part of a visual record of 2020 at Friendly Forest.
I am only able to access and update my web sites from a laptop which needed a new battery. Batteries for an old laptop are hard to find, but eventually I was successful in that effort. I am using Adobe Dreamweaver to manage my web sites, and it is only on this old computer that the software will still function. Since I still process most of my images on my desktop this requires a download to the laptop for further work.
In no particular order, here are some of the 2020 images....
In the spring time there were some beaver carcasses in and around the pond. Coyotes hunted down those that drifted to the edge of the water. The also attracted some Turkey Vultures. Here is one in a tree waiting for opportunity.
Here two of the Turkey Vultures have pulled a floating carcass onto the edge of the Beaver Lodge. It was too large to fly off with, so for a few days they scavenged in place until the carcass was light enough to carry off in flight.
At the end of Summer, and just before the first ice, many geese and other migrating birds came to feed on pond vegetation. One night two Trumpeter Swans landed and ate. I had to wait quite a while till I could get an image where both had their heads and tails above the water.
Virginia Creeper, garden chives and a few other plants found a foothold in a crack in some cement. With the end of summer they dressed in vivid colours.
Summer 2020 was an expensive one for me. I had the cedar shakes removed from the outside walls and replaced them with steel. Along the way we found some places of ant damage that required repairs as well. I had designed the house while I was still living in the City and I did not plan for wildfires and woodpeckers and ants. It was an expensive lesson but now the exterior of the house is as it should have been from the beginning.
Sometimes beauty is in front of us and we miss it. Here the beauty of the pond in late summer is reflected off the living room windows.
Thrum always wants to be outside with me but a few times I do not want her underfoot, and leave her inside. This was one such time and her mournful eyes are very effective in doing a guilt trip on me.
For some years now there has been a moose that has taken up quasi-residence in Friendly Forest. One evening it came into the open space of the pond and calmly walked around the shore.
When the warm weather of Spring came here I would move a lounge cot onto the deck, and when my back injury pain woke me early I liked to go out to the deck with a warm blanket and fall asleep till later in the morning ... often surrounded by such visual beauty and the sounds of thousands of song birds too. At times like that it was the pain of the injury that reminded me that I was still on this side....
Lynx are not seen often. Sometimes their "baby cry" is heard on a winter night,but this one casually came out to visit my back yard. Thrum's frantic barking from inside the house seemed to be an amusing point of interest to this lynx.
I did not expect many apples or crab apples this year. Last year was the heavy harvest year. But in late summer I checked and found many more than I had expected, and there were already many on the ground for coyotes and other critters, so I picked pail after pail and made a lot of juice concentrate again. I used every empty jar I could find.
A few dead birch stumps provide great look outs for kingfishers and hawks that come to feed on minnows or shore creatures. Here a hawk scouts the territory.
A platform and walkway that I built many years ago has been submerged under high water. Here geese and also ducks like that just-submerged platform to dry out and preen. These gatherings seemed to generate clan warfare. I am guessing that initially the family units from a spring nesting gathered as a cluster, and it took a while with lots of aggression and fights to establish relationships that would allow a larger group to flock and fly together as they prepared to move further South when then ice came. These territorial fights reminded me of the Spring conflicts over the best nesting site on the Beaver Lodge.
With Covid forcing so many of us to self-isolate, I sought out other sources of comfort. A Fire Table added a great deal to my morning or evening times outside, and when guests came we could all enjoy the fire while we were distancing on the deck
This mated pair were the first to arrive and they successfully fended off all other contenders for the prime nesting site on the Beaver Lodge. Surrounded by water and with a higher vantage point, the lodge provided the best protection from land predators. In previous years they also fought off the beaver who did not want to share the space. Watching a stand off between beaver and gander and goose was a loud and interesting view.
Some branches of the apple tree were dangerously out of reach so I left them for birds. Once they had frozen and fermentation started in the apples, the grey Jays and other birds had a great time.
Coyotes hunting for rodents under the snow.
Sometimes dark skies accent autumn colours in ways even more interesting than sunshine...
The intensity of colour reflected from the skies creates a powerful abstract image with the pond vegetation
Vibrant green during the summer, the muted tones of fall vegetation has its own powerful beauty to behold.
With the repair work completed, the house and yard are ready for winter
In late summer I harvested the bounty of my greenhouse and tomatoes and cucumbers and fragrant herbs added to wonderful meals. I have had many blessings this year and the troubles were surmountable. Usually I shared my joy at a communal thanksgiving meal at Friendly Forest. With Covid that was not possible this year. The image of my table ready for the 2019 thanksgiving feast is a reminder that such wonderful opportunities should not be taken for granted. After about 40 years of annually gathering friends to share a special feast, this year such expressions have been muted... We pray for a better year next year while we still recognize the many gifts of this year. For those who have lost, we grieve with you. For those who have found new gifts, we rejoice with you, and we walk this Earth showered by the blessings of our common Father, and we remember that we are all brothers and sisters together, now and into the future beyond time as well.
August 2, 2020 It has been quite a while since I looked at my blog page. It has been quite a stretch since I posted here. This prolonged response to the Covid - 19 situation has changed things around me and inside of me more than I might have considered at the outset. The imminent fear / concern about contamination hazards all around us evoked the necessary protective response in most of us that was needed to contain the spread of the virus. What I have not been able to understand well is that among my group of friends and acquaintances there is a really wide range of attitudes about what is proper and acceptable in social behaviours.
Commentators and the medical experts speak of "pandemic fatique" / "social isolation fatigue. I think I see some of that in myself as well as in others. I have not had the social life that is common among many younger Canadians, as I have not had bars and beach parties as part of my social life, so not having them now was not a deprivation. I did miss the ability to invite friends and guests to sit at my table, as individuals or as larger groups. I think I notice this the most when I do go to shop for groceries. I used to look at food and quantities with the expectation of more people sharing the food I was purchasing. Even when my nephew was still living here, I would usually over-estimate the amount of food I needed to add to my shopping cart. I am more conscious of the reality that I am shopping just for myself these days even if I still tend to over-purchase. The price differential between small prepared portions and larger and even bjulk items is so significant that it seems a waste to purchase the smaller quantity. Consequently I am much more likely to purchase a whole sirloin tip roast and cut it into several smaller roasts and stew beef etc and package them myself. As a result a freezer that should be getting more emoty is still at near maximum capacity.
I also notice that I have fewer guests for even casual visits, and that summer time with a separate entrance to my deck area is getting used. There we can be comfortable, distanced and more secure that we are not likely contaminating each other. ... but what about winter when this is not an option....
Those are external changes, but I also notice changes in my inner spirit in which the isolating behaviours I am part of seem to reduce the scope of my spirit as well, making it less inclusive in my thought patterns. I have consciously attempted to counter-act that tendency by reaching out by other means of communication and by maintaining a helping hand to others in need by other means than before. One illustration for me is that there are fewer hitch-hikers along the highway. I travel much less and rarely go out and then only in early morning if that is possible, and when there is a hitch-hiker for whom I would have offered a ride in the past, I am much more likely to just drive past and hope that someone else will offer the support needed. The potential health risk to hiker and me as driver may not be more than in the past, but I am more aware of that level of risk and wonder what would bring that hiker to undergo the risk .
While we are quickly approaching a Provincial election, I recall that our present Government callously took away all bus service for Saskatchewan residents, declaring that "private" industry would do a better job. We knew that was a lie and time has proven it to be so in that now there is NO public access service between communities. If you do not have your own car, are unable to drive yopurself, you have to rely on family of friends or hitch-hike ... even for essential trips such as medical needs. That governmental decision was made by a Minister who owns a car dealership ... probably expecting to make more car sales by removal of the bus service. Shortly after Greyhound, the only interprovincial bus service, also closed all routes except a few between Eastern Ontario and Quebec, along high population density corridors. I have a friend who cannot drive, is essentially homeless and receiving some asssitance, and who wants to return to his home area in Ontario. How is this supposed to happen? Ride sharing? who is likely to accept a stranger as a long-distance riding partner even if there are still people who undertake such distance travel? That is only a small part of the social evil that an attitude of greed and self-serving by corporate and individual society has added to our social ills.
What will our Creator ask of us when we stand side by sice with our brothers and sisters on the Other Side? What will our answers be? Perhaps we should start to rehearse some good answers, and if good answers are not to be found, we should alter our present individual and corporate behaviours so we do not need such answers ... a point of personal reflection for me and probably for a lot of the rest of us as well.
March 25, 2020 Well, a lot has happened since I last posted to this page. My iMac computer died and the replacement refuses to run the Adobe products I have used to create and maintain this web site. I have an older Macbook Air that still has the required programs and I am able to use this unit to continue. However, the battery is also slowly depleting. To err on the side of caution, I started to find where I could get a replacement battery. All computer shops would ask me for the serial number or date of manufacture to declare that no batteries were available any more. Eventually I found some on-line suppliers, but when they discovered I lived in Canada, the batteries could not be shipped to me....
After a few months of searching I found a Canadian supplier who seemed willing to ship to me. And then that order disappeared before it got here. At this date another supplier, at a much higher price, has shipped a unit to me. Why should a 9 year old computer be obsolete? Why are software programs that I paid very good money for include a self destruct code that prevents them from operating on a new computer when the old one dies?
So, with the rant out of way, I turn my attention to other things that actually have some significance.
Right now I and the people I know are part of our Provincial and National effort to slow down the Covid-19 pandemic. reflecting on my own personal situation, I realized that my lifestyle is not that much altered by the social distancing effort. I probably would not have been traveling in any case, and trips to get groceries are just curtailed even more. It is more the idea that I MUST NOT do in-person communication and travel that brings home to me how different things really are. My nephew is still living with me, and he needs to go to work most days and that adds a bit to the exposure risks we have. However, his situation does not broaden the contact circle very much and we are making sure to keep ourselves and surfaces clean in the home. I understand that most of us will eventually get in a personal relationship with the virus, it is just that it would be a better plan for that to be later than sooner ... later when perhaps the health care system is able to cope with the numbers. I believe my immune system is strong and I do not have the underlying immune system issues that so many others have to complicate their situations.
December 30, 2019 I started to compose year-end letter before Christmas and was only able to complete it in the new year. Here is a link to a PDF version of that letter
August 24, 2019 The Fall season has arrived early with leaves changing colour, cooler nights and morning fog, water fowl learning to fly and congregate and feed before a migration.
It is also the season for political noises and actions. For those who know me and my background you will recall that I have been a Green Party supporter since the beginning of this century, and that in 2003 I took my convictions on the road as a Green Party candidate in our Provincial election. If you share similar convictions you can make a financial contribution to the Fedeal Greens by going to this link:
July 28, 2019 This month has been a busy and interesting one here at Friendly Forest. Preparations for the 263 Art Studio Tour took more time than I usually anticipate, but the two days were a good experience for me and I hope that the many visitors to Friendly Forest also had a good experience. At one point on Sunday afternoon of the Tour, I noted that things were rather loud in the house, but that there was a lot of laughter, happy conversation and generally a good and positive tone to it all. What a contrast to the atmosphere at a commercial retail location in the city!
While not too many actually ate some of the Pecan pie with whipped cream that we offered as a small treat to our guests, the offer and the invitation to sit at the table for coffee or juice or pie seemed to be appreciated as part of the total atmosphere of welcome that I want Friendly Forest to be known for.
As a reader of this page may recall, the beaver population in the pond at Friendly Forest, has long since moved their tree-hunting territory well outside of the usual perimeter around the pond, and have been taking trees down well into the area of my yard and toward my shop. Even the wire dress defenses I have employed as protection for the most significant trees, the beaver have taken down many. In addition to losing valued trees, I have come to fear for safety of my home and of property and people; a partially chewed tree can come down in the wind and drop on an unsuspecting person or parked vehicle... or, as has happened several times, a tree that should have been safe, is taken down and crashes onto the house.
The desperate search for aspen trees that marked the frenzy late last fall has resumed this spring, signaling that their available supply of trees is less than what they require. The latest casualties were four young aspen located within four feet of the house ... taken in mid afternoon when the beaver should be resting and waiting for their usual nocturnal activities.
When I went to pay my municipal taxes last week I inquired if there was help available to me to deal with this serious issue. I was put in contact with a professional licensed trapper who came late in the week. I was very sad about the decision I had made, and the death of beaver for simply being beavers, troubles my green heart and spirit. And yet, as the current steward of this forest space, I did not see any other responsible choice. While the "solution" might be only temporary, new beaver may move in shortly and the cycle will begin again. In years past another local trapper had promised to come to harvest the beaver, he never came. With the world wide anti-fur movement, and the removal of wolves who are the main natural predator on beaver, there is no market value to a beaver pelt or to beaver meat, and so the populations have ballooned. The result has been expensive and damaging flooding of municipal roads and crop lands and the destruction of prized tree growths. Most Canadians do not understand the significance of the fact that beaver are the only animal, other than man, which can change an ecosystem.
All that rationalization being stated, I am still greatly saddened by the decision that I made. I have made a tobacco offering and sent prayers to Creator and the spirits of the beaver, hoping that they suffered little and have found a peace with the source of their spirit and life ... the place where all mortals return at the end of our time.
July 4, 2019 A few special events are rapidly closing in and I will need to scramble to meet some deadlines.
I have acknowledged to myself that I have no more time to start new projects in the shop in the hope that they might be finished before our July 20, 21 263 Art Studio Tour (click on logo above for details)
I have had a few days of very enjoyable visiting with a friend who also happens to be a computer tech guy, and we discussed my website ... yes the one you are on right now. I have long realized that the site had grown in various directions and there were elements that should be updated, and that the whole site could use a face-lift or reorganization. That was always going to be a "winter project" that never seemed to get done.
From my discussions with my tech friend, I particularly realized that most web visitors today are on a smart phone or a tablet, not on a lap top or even a desk top.
When I first started designing the site the standard screen size was 600 X 800 pixels. Also I was still on a phone line modem that was VERY slow to load files. Because large size image files and Flash features on the site were sure to slow down the functioning of the site, I tried to avoid those issues in my design. By going for thumbnail images that were still large enough to convey the subject matter I allowed the visitor to decide if they wanted to wait for a larger image to load for better viewing. Instead of Flash features I resorted to "hotspots" for hyperlinks. Because of the different ways the different Browsers rendered fonts and page arrangements, I converted a lot of pages that I had started using "frames" and switched them to be "table" based page structures. Yes, that limited the design possibilities, but I think I created a more user-friendly site.
Today however, a smart phone or tablet allows the user to determine whether they view a site in landscape or portrait orientation. With a finger-swipe, the user can shrink or expand an image or page, but with smaller screen size, text that was comfortable to read on a lap top or desk top screen, can be too small for many eyes to see without making the effort to magnify the page.
A few days ago I started the make-over by creating a new set of graphic headings that would visually tie together the navigation links across most of the web site. I used the Logoist app to create a unique appearance for the headers.
I decided to add another level of site organization by grouping web pages into new sections that started with a clean, simplified menu page. I decided against drop-down menus as those are still Flash elements and are often visually too small for easy viewing on small screens.
I have started with the macro changes and then will proceed by re-organizing the individual content pages.
In the past a few people who did comment on the site were encouraging me to make it a selling platform by creating a catalogue and purchase features. I have resisted doing that because my products are not mass produced and what I feature on my Product Galleries ... are "art pieces" that are shown for appreciation or further discussion with an interested visitor. If a visitor is seeking to be a "customer" as well, the Product Galleries can serve as a starting point about what they are looking for and whether or not I am able to meet their requirements for a special wood item.
I do "sell" to site visitors if I have what they are seeking, either as a direct person-to-person sale,or a remote sale with deliver by parcel post. I show my work and offer it for sale through visits to my home and shop or at the Art Studio Tour open-house that we have been hosting once a year. Some "customers" are people who drive along the Highway and see my sign and just drop in to see what Friendly Forest is all about.
I always invite comments about the web site and about my work ... my work in general or about specific pieces that you may have found on the site. Like most woodworkers I am usually quite eager to talk about wood and woodworking with other interested persons. Discussions about other elements featured on the website are also welcomed. I have tried to feature what I think is important about this place I call "Friendly Forest", and the personal and spiritual journey this place has invited me to be part of.
May 28, 2019 I have finally progressed with my new wood work so that I was able to photograph them and post to Gallery 1.
After a few warmer days the Saskatoon and Pincherry shrubs are in blossom while the apple trees are just about ready to open. I hope to see a few more pollinating insects than thus far ... it has been quite cold and not suitable for them.
The Canada Goose pair that nested on the beaver lodge had a successful hatch of four goslings... All seem to be well so far and I trust the parents to keep them safe. The ducks seem to be later with nests filling with eggs just now and then a 4 week brood period still ahead.
May 12, 2019 While I was neglecting this page Spring has finally come to this land. This morning I was able to watch numerous pairs of ducks flying around and swimming on the pond. Since they are still appearing as pairs I assume they have not yet started nesting. At the same time the Canada Geese pair that successfully defended the nesting spot on the beaver lodge, have started to brood their eggs nearly two weeks ago. This time the goose selected a spot just a few feet down from the top of the lodge and on the side facing the house so I can watch things easily. She simply seems to have found a spot supported by one of the logs the beaver had dragged onto the top of the lodge. I always wonder that their eggs do not roll down into the water when they move around.
The abundance of the other water fowl suggests a shortage of other suitable bodies of water near by as well as a likely safer nesting space. If there are lots of coyotes, fox or raccoons around not too many nests succeed. Later I can expect the ravens to come hunting. They may not know exactly where a nest is, but they fly around the grassy areas around the pond squeaking in their raucous manner trying to cause the nesting parent to move and so be detected. Then they come back to chase the mother duck off the nest and feast on the eggs. Even when a hatch is successful and they make it to the water, I have seen ravens hunting ducklings off the surface of the water like an eagle would. Nature provides many hazards to these birds.
I have not seen sign of raccoons yet this spring. When there is a racoon there will likely be no successful nestings on land. That varmint is incredibly efficient and leaves no survivors. Some years the only water birds to nest successfully were the grebes who have a floating nest out in the water, anchored to an emerging shrub.
On Easter Sunday I was able to host friends and neighbours to an Easter Sunday brunch ... pot-luck style. I proposed a menu list and asked those coming to bring what they wanted to make. We ended up with 20 at table and the food was just great. Thank you for helping me celebrate that day. I also enjoyed the left-over food you packed into my fridge.
Once Easter was past I started to do some work in the shop. The weather turned miserable for the past few weeks so I used my daily activity quota out there. I am now waiting on warm weather so I can do some of the finishing work outside so I do not have to deal with varnish and lacquer fumes indoors. I will post images once that is done.
Earlier this year I was working on my Simply Accounting business program, making entries for the past year etc. As I was doing that I made a journal entry that reversed the credit / debit column. I spotted it when I called up a report and the errant entry stood out. So I went back and did a reverse journal entry ... or so I thought. Instead I made the same mistake I had done earlier. It took me a third time to make the correction as needed. Maybe it was the effect of the Gabapentin that I need to take, but that shook my confidence in what I was doing. I know that I am prone to doing reversals as part of my dyslexia, but usually I correct things without making things worse. As a result this year I submitted my tax work to an accountant and let them file my tax returns. I just handed over my paper records and my laptop that I use for my accounting program and gave them the required passwords. It cost me some money but saved a lot of anxiety. I do not like to mess up my accounts.
One of the things that complicated things for me was that I was removing old or defective products from my inventory. Items that I had relegated to boxes in corners as never likely to be sold ended up heating my shop during the cold days. It was a shame. When I made those items I was proud of them but now know that they have no commercial value. What something is worth is what someone else is willing to pay for it ... on the business end of things. It does not matter how much I might like it, or even how much someone else likes it, if I cannot find a good selling price, it has no commercial value. It is much harder to have that cold attitude about your own creative work than it would about an item you are simply merchandising. Ah well, the things I like now may also end up that way.
March 24, 2019 Planning for our 263 Art Studio Tour for 2019 is underway. We are still open to receiving new members for the Tour. I have been updating the web site but we still need some confirmations before we can create the new Tour Brochure and the Maps to the different site locations.
Click on our logo to go to the web site:
The images I had posted at the end of 2018 were a reasonable depiction of what was happening here at Friendly forest and for most of Saskatchewan ... cold weather followed by very cold weather followed by cold weather ....
Even as the Sun returned to our northern skies we knew that there would have to be a break at some time, and that sometime seemed to have happened two weeks ago. Even though we have returned to colder temperatures there has been considerable melting of the snow that was here since last October.
I did no serious shop work for the three months as it was not worth the effort to heat that space and I had no pressing custom requests.
I am looking forward to spending more time out there soon and will enjoy as much as my persistent back injury will permit.
I have been learning what I can and what I should not attempt. I am also slowly dealing with my doctor's advice to lean how to manage things as the injury is not likely to resolve or things get better. That is a hard thing to consider after so many years of having a very fit and strong body that seemed ready to undertake nearly everything I asked it to do. The double hernia that i got about 4 years ago should have been a good warning to slow things down . Once that issue had been resolved by surgery and time for healing, I was once more feeling great and competent.
When I renewed my handicapped parking permit the other day it was not for the one year time span as before, but for at least three years. That too reflects the doctor's assessment of what I can expect. I am most impressed and grateful to the Saskatchewan Abilities Council not only for managing that program, but also for their assistance to me in providing me with a good wheelchair and walker . These are at no cost to me for as long as I need them, and then they return to the Council for re-use. I asked the manager what rate of eventual return they had on their equipment. He guessed that it was well up in the 90 percent range. That statistic was also impressive.
December 31 2018 Signing off for the year 2018, I decided to post a few of the images I captured with my camera during the month of December. We had many grey days as the Sun continued to visit the Souhern Hemisphere before its Post-Solstice return to this land. Some of those days and nights were with fog and the resulting hoar frost on everything.
There were also a few days, like today, when the Sun did look through our skies at the land it will soon re-visit and the white of a frost-covered forest is framed against a blue sky. It is when one compares the blue skies of this time of year with those of mid summer that one realizes just how much yellow light there is as the low-angled sun light is filtered by the atmosphere. These images were taken close to noon.
A few large aspen that have still survived the beaver attacks
To the North end of the pond
A bit further right of the image above. Note the long shadows from the trees on the South end of the pond.
To the North-East
Near the South East edge of the pond
Zooming in with the camera lense
Zooming out with the camera lens; taken off the edge of the deck
On a dark Saturday morning; the local moose shows itself along the inside of the pond
It pauses for a moment before ramming more of the dead tree trunks and then ambling off into the forest where some suitable browse could be found.