November 14, 2006 to  November 01, 2007

October 1, 2007  I have finished making a series of ceremonial rattles and wood dippers to be used in traditional ceremony / prayer.  Already two of the rattles have been claimed, so I undertook to make a few more.  It is a rather involved process that I follow and I thought some one else interested might like to see how it was done, for interest, or to copy or to do a better job.  If you have found a better /more efficient way of doing something like this, please let me know.  I would appreciate the comments.  I have posted process comments and photos as a "Just For Fun' item.  Click here to see the page.

Most of the leaves have fallen from the trees.  We have been getting lots of additional rain (not needed) but so far the temperatures have been moderate.  I have most of my winter wood in place and under cover, and most of the wood needed for winter 2008-2009 split and stacked and under  a tarp to season over the coming year.  I have been taking down mature aspen which are showing signs of dying from the top, indicating the end of their cycle.  I felled one of these  large ones and did not notice that a wind had arisen between the start of the process and the cutting of the felling wedge.  i had a chain and block and tackle  securing the top of the tree to an anchor tree, but just as I added pull to the system, the rope began to break.  By that time the tree was weakened and it dropped ... the wrong way.  One part of the upper branches caught the edge of my garage roof doing some damage that will take a few hours to repair.  I now have decided to wait for calm wind and rely only on steel cable and steel chain to assist in felling trees that are not leaning in the way I need them to fall.


September 24, 2007  another walk in the fall forest

Two birch trees accumulated some debris between their trunks and a cascade of mushrooms encircled and rose  like a set of magnificent stairs.  It nearly makes me believe i in the"Little People".

A close up of some lichen growing on an old birch tree.  The subtle colours and striking contrasts make this a wonderful abstract.

Puff Ball Mushrooms lay ruptured with their spores spread o in the winds as a few falling leaves begin the process of becoming food for next year's generation of mushrooms.

An old birch tree had a series of large bracket fungi growing out from the trunk.  On top of one such bract was a nest of four puff ball mushrooms as if crouching in fear of the camera lens.

An old Spruce stump hosts a colourful array of plants, from feather mosses, club mosses, lichens and the rich red and purple leaves of the bunch berry changing the chemistry and colour of its leaves to withstand the coming cold.

A stump of a spruce on the Sacred Hoop Trail is hosting the beginning of its own colony of plants.  Here we see the delicate spread of the feather moss growth and the colourful contrast of lichen colonies beginning to form around the mother spore areas.  The dark brown and black of moulds provide the contrasting background for the more brilliant  growths.

September 11, 2007

July 05, 2007  It has been a while since I took time to add a few words here.  Spring and Summer are busy months for all of us, and there did not seem to be any thing of note to add here in the interim.

I have completed some custom furniture items and done a bit of turning in the shop and have a custom order waiting for final instructions.  During several rainy days (and we have had lots of them) I actually did some cleaning in my shop.  My shop, unlike my house, is very cramped and crowded.  Those are dangerous environs for me as I add still more into the corners.  Because cleaning is more difficult in tight areas it gets done less frequently or less well.  Then come those moments when I am most too annoyed by the accumulated clutter or i think it might be starting to get dangerous in some manner, and I will do a rather thorough cleaning.

For those who know me that just about becomes a moral crisis.  I have what some call a "depression mentality".  No, not a psychological depression ... the depression of the 1930's in Saskatchewan where there was great poverty and economic disaster for much of the population.  Although I was not born till after that time, I was raised in a home where the attitudes of frugality and conservation were applied in the extreme, and I inherited that attitude.  A tiny piece of wood, a used nail, a tiny bit of paint left in a container, a small scrap of leather, that broken hacksaw blade, all, and lots more items, just MIGHT be useful and cannot be thrown out.  As you can imagine, that kind of frugality over a period of time will lead to a problem of accumulated clutter.  But to toss out or burn those small things seems like a "sin" and imprudent as there just might be a use for it in the future.  I KNOW that in the future the saved item will be just too small, or have dried up, or be lost so deeply that I cannot find it anyway when needed, or some other factor that reaffirms why it was a "waste' item in the first place.  Even into my advancing years I still play those mental games with myself .  And after a long tangent, that is one reason why cleaning up my shop is often a chore to be avoided or postponed.

Last autumn I had a small strip created into the hill beside my house and a load of top soil delivered.  When the weather got better this spring I started hauling  the spent grandfather stones from previous Inipi ceremonies and cemented them into  garden bed rings.  I  then excavated  the hole  within the ring some more and filled the holes with the rich top soil,  I did some test planting this spring to see how things would grow and with the plan to be diligent in eliminating the weeds from the soil.  I spread gravel between the beds so I could access the vegetables and herbs even during wet times.  The image above shows the project nearly complete.  I was given a few sweetgrass plugs and I planted them into one bed.  They rooted well and are now sending up new shoots over much of the area of the bed.  If they set successfully here I will use this as the starter bed for the relocation of additional plugs into the forest area.  There are so few naturally occurring plants that I have not harvested any.  With the depletion or destruction of naturally occurring areas of sweetgrass I consider this as a conservation effort.  I had also taken a few Prairie Sage plants last summer and brought them here near my house.  This spring they have sent up new shoots and seem to be doing well.  I have been told by one person that  plants used for sacred smudges should not be moved from where they occur naturally.  I do not accept that principle when it applies to sparse or endangered plants.  While the Sage may not be endangered, it is not found  in this forest area, not even along roadsides.  I have harvested sage from roadside ditches further south but have always been concerned about contamination of the plants or the soil in which they grow; contamination  by field chemicals or road salts and vehicle  contamination.  I anyone reading this had another perspective on this issue I would appreciate hearing from you and understanding your view.  I consider other efforts to restore the bison and wonder how that is different than an effort to preserve endangered sacred plant species.

Forest trail maintenance work is well under way.  Regular trimming and removal of deadfall trees  is being done, and I am planning some new trail clearing.  I have already done some of that this spring because former trails have been submerged by the high water. (The pond is easily 8 feet higher than just two years ago.)

May 18, 2007  No comment required:

May 11, 2007

Then May 18, 2007

May 17, 2007  It has been more than one moon since I made an entry here.  It has been a busy month with spring finally here.  I have been working out-of-doors for the main, and am pleased that my body has responded quite well to the demands that I  put on it.

The water in the pond is very high and has drowned out a lot more of the trees that skirted  the pond, and is also threatening the larger trees that have been around for at least 60 years.  That means this high water is infrequent.  It is still rising daily with the feed from the hills around.  there is no direct run-off into the pond other than the springs that leak water on a continuing basis.  A road that I was able to drive through last summer is now under 2 feet of water ( about   61 cm) .  I just came in from gathering willows to renew the Initi (Sweat Lodge), and I needed chest waders to get to  what was my walking path of two years ago. 

I took a bit more than a week to create a new path around the south end of the pond so I could access the Sacred Hoop Trail with dry feet.  Now some sections of that path are threatened by the rising water!

During the week of May 7 - 11 I did my annual spring fast.  The weather was good and the bugs had not yet emerged in any numbers.  Bear (actually two of them) has been around and visited my camp but has not done too much damage.  I patched a few holes  that claws made in the tipi door, and  his/her  night visits were met by an active challenge by my dog King.  When I returned to my own bed in my house it seemed strange to go to bed without locating a flashlight and a canister of bear spray near my head where I could reach them quickly in the night.

For the fast I just refrained from solid foods while still drinking water, tea and some berry juice.  My experience in previous years has shown me that i am subject to severe kidney distress if I do not take any liquids for that amount of time.  From those who have never undertaken such a fast I get the reaction that it must have been difficult.  I have not found it so.  The hunger is minimal and once the body adjusts to using stored energy, things are really quite normal.  It was a good time to rest and pray. 

I also used this time to renew the Sacred Hoop Trail by 'feeding the forest" and renewing the prayer flags that mark the gates and the centre.

Last year I had a local contractor come with a large backhoe to  create a flat strip in the hill beside my house.  I wanted to establish a small outdoor garden.  Just before snowfall I had a load of topsoil delivered.  So after my fast I had no excuse to delay work on that project.  The frost had gone out of the ground and it was no longer muddy.  I have been making  6 foot diameter rings of stone and concrete to crete raised beds for the plants.  There is no natural top-soil in this forest, with just a few inches of loose litter on top of a clay/rock/gravel base.  I have completed four of the circular beds and have run out of gravel.  I will need to wait till the road bans on heavy trucks is of to get some more gravel delivered.  The soil that I am putting into the beds looks nice and I will see if it is also relatively weed free.

I have been reading some very interesting books and have been doing some work trying to put on paper a reply to a question ; "Can you be a Christian and at the same time practice Traditional Native Religion?"  Beyond a simple "yes" reply, it gets immediately more complex, and I am looking for a simple way to express a very important set of considerations.  I may publish what I have done so far to this site and reference it here in an effort to get feedback on what I have composed.  It is a good thing for me to be doing.  Even though I have moved carefully to integrate what I was learning about Traditional Native prayers and ceremonies with the connections and ways of praying I already have found  within the Judeo-Christian traditions and within my own personal contact with my Creator, trying to express things on paper is forcing me to move some of my personal integration to the brain and express it in words.  That is hard to do.

April 15, 2007  It is of interest to me to note my comment of March 27.  From that time till yesterday we have had a cold return of winter with no melting so snow persists.  The geese are back and defending nesting territory on top of solid ice, but there are signs that  the ice is lifting and may open up if it stays warm and there is a bit of breeze.  During the winter the ice never became too deep because of the early insulating layer of snow last fall.

The prolonged cold period may have assisted in the removal of water and the decreased risk of flooding in this area at least. 

Yesterday morning during prayers outside I was joined by the howl of a wolf.  It was not the full pack howl that I recall from last year, but it was still nice to "hear that wolf is praying at the same time that I do."  I hope I have the same experience more often now that the weather does encourage me to step outside before sunrise.

I have been back in the shop for the past week making two limited series of walnut boxes with birch / padauk insert strips.  I had been saving one particular piece of walnut with rather wild figure in the grain.  It was an area below a large branch and the stress produced a wild shimmering area.  It was a rather large branch and the board also cross-sectioned that branch to give the oval grain pattern of the branch.  To someone who does not work with wood or uses it only as basic construction material, what I was excited about would not stir their hearts or imaginations.  In fact, too many people would have rejected that board and tossed it as defective.  Ah, what a creator can do with "defective" parts.  I think that the Creator of all things does that each and every day, and we should just trust a bit more in what the "eye of God" sees in each of us and what is being worked on in our lives that is beyond our limited perceptions.  The stress that we experience in our lives and which we believe is crushing and destroying us might just be like the pressure on the wood below that branch and it is producing a wild and beautiful shimmer in our spirits and souls that we cannot see while we are still within the tree. 

I had better let that one rest there.   When analogies / metaphors are pushed too far they  become contrived and lose their impact.

Here is a glimpse of what I mean.  These are clickable to see larger view.

March 27, 2007  The weather has changed and the snow is melting and that not only changes the land but changes the inner spirit too.  Our winters are long and the limitations on activity imposed by snow and cold can wear the human spirit down over that long stretch.

I have finally finished the table top with what I am planning to be its final condition.  I am sealing the surface with several layers of varathane and will probably add some polyresin coating over the actual carved areas to fill in the depressions so that wiping and cleaning the surface will be a simple task.  I used a wood burning tool and some aniline dye to 'paint behind' the leaf images, leaving the actual images the natural wood colours.  The result is this:  (These are clickable images)


I have also finished a custom order for a tabernacle.  It is finished unless the customer requests additional image carving on the sides.  The woods are Birch from Friendly Forest and American Black Walnut.


March 3, 2007  It is mid morning and I just came in from a bit of work on a chilly day.  I have prepared the wood and the rocks for this afternoon's Inipi.  Everything is so deep in the snow that I am really glad that last fall I stored the rocks inside my greenhouse and stacked some wood and covered it with old sheets of aspenite.  At least they are accessible when I want them. 

I have a funeral service to attend in early afternoon in the City, and when I return I shall light the fire. 

I have received several special prayer requests for this ceremony and I have a few intentions of my own that I want to bring to Creator, but most of all, I want the time to be open to what I am supposed to hear or see and come to understand deep within my being.  That is the special gift of this kind of ancient prayer.

As the reader of this page may have noticed, there is a page / hits counter at the bottom of some of my site pages.  I see the numbers going up so I know there are visitors to these pages, but I rarely receive any feedback from those that do take a look.  It would be great if a few visitors did take a moment and let me know what brought them to the page and whether their visit  was useful to them. 

For some reason my bird feeder and the deck was just covered with swarms of winter birds, greedily feeding on the black sunflower seeds I have provided.  There were three or four species in large numbers, all feeding at the same time in apparent harmony.  In past years I was aware of very distinct priority feeding rights sorted by species and by gender as well.  The top feeders were the Grey Jays who were followed in close order by the Blue Jays and the Hairy Woodpeckers.  The Downy Woodpeckers tend to stick to the suet bag and leave the sunflowers for the others.  Then the two species of Grosbeaks with a close match between the Evening Grosbeaks and the Pine Grosbeaks.  Within the Grosbeaks the mature males are dominant and are followed by the mature females and the immature males.  The Nuthatches seem to push aside the chickadees and the Red Polls, though the Red Polls and Chickadees seem to be able to operate together.  It is the Chickadees that remind me when the feeder needs to be restocked, and when I obey their orders, are the first to announce it to their fellows and all of the others who are anywhere in the neighbouring trees.

This year's dominant squirrel has figured out how to get into the feeder tray, and when he is there all the birds just wait their turn at the food.

February 28, 2007   I have done a halt to my work on the table top while I figure out what I will do for a final finish to the carving project.  Here is an image of the surface as it is now.

February 5, 2007  It is a month since I last made an entry here.  That is a reasonable indication that not much different has been happening at Friendly Forest.  I have been reading a whole slew of books and watching some DVD's that I had and had not previously viewed.  I also fell victim to a rotten winter cold / flu that reminded me that I am not very good at being sick nor am I good to be around when I am sick.  I was not alone in my misery as a lot of other people had the same or similar affliction over the past while.

I have been doing some carving on my table top, but taking it agonizingly slow.  I find that I cannot do it well under artificial light and that the natural shadow cast from the window in daylight gives me the best  visibility for the carving.  Pushing a knife into a shadow is NOT a smart thing to do on a project like this.  Since I cannot tilt and twist the table top to get a good angle, I am best off to wait for the light to be right.  That gives me ample excuses to dawdle over other things.  I could really get used to being retired if I let this continue.  I know I will get going soon now that my health has improved a great deal.  With longer daylight hours my spirits are being lightened as well.  Getting an email from friends enjoying the sun in Mexico makes me thinK (momentarily) that maybe I am living in the wrong place. Then, just as quickly, I know that I am in the right place for me, and a long cold winter is part of the total package.

February 2 was full moon again, and this time the sky was clear and the moon was in glorious power.  As we crawled out of the Sweat Lodge the full moon was lined up directly to the East and lined up with the Fire Pit and the mound altar and the entrance of the Lodge.  My exit from that area and back into the house did not take long.  The thermometer was  around  minus 30 degrees Celsius, and the heat the body had absorbed from the rocks soon dissipates in those temperatures.  It was a good time to pray, and I thank all whose prayers were joined to mine that day and evening.

There are times when I contemplate the bounty of gifts that I have received here and I am overwhelmed with that knowledge.  Why me and why not someone else?  So many people are born to this earth who have not a fraction of the gifts that I have here, and they are as worthy as I.  The best I can figure is that I have been given the greater challenge to care for and share this greater abundance of gift from Creator.  That is a journey that needs perpetual clarification and insight, and for that I continue to pray as well.

January 7, 2007    The Christmas period is officially over with this date, and I presume things will return to another kind of normal around Friendly Forest.  I have enjoyed good food and good company over these past weeks, but never did it become a frantic or frenetic time. 

January 3 was Full Moon again, and I was able to experience that time  with my special pattern of events.  The weather was incredibly mild for a period of time and there even was a bit of above freezing temperature.  It has turned colder and we have had some more snow with more predicted.  My snow-shoe trek this afternoon was  enjoyable even though I was breaking some new trail in deep snow.  The forest is crisscrossed with deer tracks as they browse the young branches throughout the forest.  They even are now crossing the pond during the day time.  That would suggest they are relaxing after the early winter hunting season.

I have left my shop closed over this period, though I have followed up on my plan to carve on the new table top I made.  I have just begun, and though I know  (or think I know) what I am doing, I had a visitor comment that I was wrecking the table by cutting into its surface.  I will proceed with my confidence that I know what I am doing.  It will be a slow process as getting into proper position to do the detailed carving requires a certain discovery of new body posture and position.

I have been reading some interesting books as well, and watching a few videos that I had purchased two years ago and never got to watch.  Hey, if I don't watch it I will be acting as if I have really retired!

December 16, 2006  A winter storm is just about blown out ... or at least it seems that way at the moment.  I had to make a delivery this afternoon, and also had to get some groceries from the city.  While there I had been asked to stop by to see another friend who had come down from the North.  He had some caribou meat for me.  I thought it might be a package or two, but was delighted to receive a good sized tub of fresh meat.  This friend had hunted recently and I was being invited to share in the good fortune of the hunters.  My house guest of the past months was also able to head back to be with his family for the Christmas period.  He was really looking forward to this return home.

We are nearly at winter solstice, and I, like many Canadians, am looking forward to the return of Father Wi. 

I finally wore out one of my old pair of snow shoes.  One of the rims had cracked  some years ago and I had patched it  so it still worked.  This time I neglected to re-varnish the webbing, and one of my feet finally ripped through the weakened  web.  It is not worth trying to repair in a good manner, and I have largely given up the idea of making a pair from scratch.  Instead I did some web searching and then went to purchase a pair of "modern" snow shoes .. all aluminium and rubber and "nyteck", whatever that is.  They are noisy and do not have the same grip in soft powder snow as the old fashioned ones, but they are lighter and the bindings are much better. The romance of the old wooden and gut webbed shoes is not there, but I don't think I could even find that old style anywhere today.  The old pair that I wore out were about 40 years old, and had served me very well . 

I am finally getting my mind around to the fact that Christmas is only a week away.  I will keep things simple.  I have a good stock of food and with a bit of preparation should be ready for any guests that might have the time to visit.   I purchased a relatively large  poinsettia arrangement and it adds a good splash of colour.  That is about all I plan to do for decorations.  Last year I did nothing and did not miss it at all.  A simple glance out of any of my windows  or at my fire in the stove is a much more beautiful vision than on any card or than what any decorations could  evoke.  I cannot improve on what Creator has provided as a feast for my eyes.

November 24, 2006  Today and tomorrow I am showing Friendly Forest Products at Prince Albert's Evergreen Craft and Art Show.  I set up this morning with very welcome help from a friend.  My back has been giving me problems for the past few days and his help in lifting was really a God send for me today.

I also took a photo out of my house window for a new Home Page image and also captured a Hairy Woodpecker having a meal at my suet bag hanging on my clothes line.

I am adding new images of recent work into the appropriate FFPRO Gallery files, having just begun with the "Useful Items Gallery". 

I have been going to way too many funerals lately.

November 13, 2006  It has been a while since I added a few lines here.  I have finally added product images to  Recent Work Page 4 .  That was from photos I took about a month ago, and I have new work since which needs to be loaded as well.  I am spending more time in the shop getting some items done for Evergreen, the juried Art show in Prince Albert on November 24, 25.

The biggest (literally) thing I have done is finally finish a new top for my table.  I made it from birch and it measures 11 feet X 39 X 1 3/4 inches.  For the time being I have put it on the trestle base I hade used for the other table.  To overcome the things I was dissatisfied with about the other top, I cut the birch and laminated strips to reduce the possibility of warping of boards.  I also drilled 1/2 inch diameter holes from the ends of the slab and inserted  a steel rod a few inches from the ends of the full slab and two rods near the centre of the slab.  The steel does not show as the outside boards cover the  ends of the rod.  I have allowed room for wood contraction or expansion so it should slide over the rods while the rods keep the wood from warping.  At least that is my plan.  I had first planned to insert wooden splines, using a hard wood such as African Wenge, but then determined that the single drilled hole would be less of a compromise of the integrity of the boards and would provide proportionally greater strength, especially as a rod  is less prone to bending than a flat piece of equal volume.  The rod is a tight fit in the hole, and I hope it is not too tight.  I did not want play room as it would have partially defeated the stiffening  purpose of the rod.

The top is very heavy and I do not have commercial machines to handle it.  Consequently I made it in two long pieces which I drum-sanded in the shop, and then carried to the house where they were assembled along the centre.  I had help lifting the slabs  and repositioning them for the multiple passes through the sander.  Even then they were very heavy and difficult to manage.  The whole top easily weighs about 200 - 250 pounds! 

I have used a polyurethane to seal the underside but used a varathane for the top to keep the natural colour of the wood.  With a fair amount of heartwood in the slab the oil-based polyurethane would have made it too dark for my liking.  As the winter progresses I plan to do low relief carving on much of the table surface and then coat the carved areas with a poly resin to make it smoother and easier to wipe and keep clean.  It will still require a lot of work, but the basic piece is finished and I am delighted with how it looks.  The table will now more easily seat the 12 or 14 guests that I often have for special feast meals at Friendly Forest.

I am making some boxes using Congalo Alves and Pauo Ferro woods.  The tiger wood pieces are really varied in appearance, but all have the oil / wax content that makes gluing tricky.  I have used a polyurethane glue rather than traditional wood glues.  In the past, even after wiping the wood with alcohol just before gluing, some joins were weak and even came apart after a period of time.  There is a lot of careful finishing work yet to be done, but they should be very attractive.

Winter is definitely here, and I will change the home page image with a more suitable seasonal image.

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