December 20, 2014, Tomorrow is Winter Solstice. I have started the task of house cleaning in preparation to receive guests during the Christmas season. Having a total aversion for such tasks, I found excuses to do other things as well. One was to download images from my camera taken over the past month or so and prepare to load a few of them to this web site. I will do so in this space. Each image is a thumnail and can be clicked to see a larger version.
View of my home at Friendly Forest when approached from the West. It is tucked into a hill.
In late October the pond began to f reeze. As ice formed out from the shore, the trees were decked with hoar frost.
Using the zoom feature on my camera I closed in on the far shore across the pond. The reflection is in the ice.
Zooming back out with the lens this is what it looked like. You can see the ice moving toward the pond centre.
In early December the days are darker and there is more snow on the trails. I was using my snowshoes ad packing a good base for future treks into the forest. My dog Thrum loves the snow and loves racing along the trails.
Along the path on the Hoop Trail section, the mid afternoon sun shines through the forest.
It is hard to take a photo of Thrum as she is always moving with high energy and high speed. She is now 9 months old and survived her neutering surgery very well.
December 16,2014 An update is long overdue and will come soon ... I promise. I have been busy with things that have deadlines and are not able to be postponed. Although our winter has moderated here during December, the skies have been overcast and with the very limited sun hours per day, it has been dark and gloomy. On the weekend I had an invitation to the home of two artists in Prince Albert. Jack and Linda Jensen are a couple, but who are great artists in their own rights. The art show was in their home.
I drove in late Sunday afternoon expecting to see beautiful art works. I was not disappointed. I loved seeing their work but fell in love with a rather simple painting by Jack. I no longer have wall space in my home to display any more works but with this one I really wanted to experience more than just that initial view. So I arranged to purchase it. It now hangs just to my right on a wall near my desk. I took a photo of the painting and you can see it by clicking here.
I see it as a spirit painting; there is shadow and light. The vibrant colours of the green and coloured aspen leaves speak of the life of the sun and earth that flows through those trees. I always feel a special kinship with Aspen trees and it nearly seems as if they are speaking to me. Thank you Jack for seeing the beauty of this simple image. Thank you for capturing its spirit and using your talent to put it forward in paint. Thank you and Linda for a great showing of your incredible work.
October 31, 2014 The end of this month. Winter has looked at us around the corner and smiled, awaiting a grander entrance onto the land. For now, a few light snow flurries and the creeping edge of ice formation on the pond. Late arrival leaves have finally decided on the wisdom of dropping to the ground before a heavy snow. I have been able to take long hikes into the forest with an delighted and enthusiastic canine companion, and recurring thoughts about fall and the final quadrants of my walk on the Sacred Hoop come back and finally find a resting place on a new web page. You can find this by clicking on the image below.
October 4, 2014 We have had the first light snow fall but it did not last on ground not yet frozen. I have just finished moving rocks and wood under cover for the winter months, and with a few more outdoor chores I will be as ready as I can be for winter weather. Trees still have leaves and that is a cause of concern. The leaves still on are mainly the late additions that came out after the end of the Tent Catterpillar destruction earlier this summer. The leaves are relatively young and still not ready to say goodby to the season. What this does, however, is put the tree at peril if we have a heavy wet snow that can overload branches and trees. The past two years this happened with even fewer, or no leaves still on the trees. The destruction in the forest was extensive.
Thrum is now nearly 7 months old and is maturing but still a "puppy" and "Terrier terrorist". This image is at 6.5 months. She tops 40 pounds and stands over 20 inches tall. Her voice is changing from puppy to adult dog bark, but the sound is not consistent yet, much like a human male with a voice change going on.
September 24, 2014 The past month has rushed by and we found that sweet time of the year between mosquitoes and snow.
We have had a variety of temperature patterns from really cool to quite warm. I managed to cear the walking trails and have nearly finished gathering, splitting and stacking firewood both for use in the house and for the Inipi fires. I still have to hunt for stones, but fall tasks are being crossed off the list. Today I also climbed onto the house and shop roofs and with special brushes and poles, cleaned the chimneys of both buildings. Even after a full year of use, the chimney on my home has so little soot that the work was not even required. Still, it gives greater peace of mind knowing that the pipe and chimney is clean.
I also dragged a wheelbarrow out to Thrum's Run to bring back the fourth of the Cottonwood burl pieces. Even this quarter piece was heavy and I needed all of my strength to lift it into the wheelbarrow.
When I first cleared that part of my trail system I noticed a Cottonwood Tree that had a burl growth on its trunk, about 3 metres above the gound. The tree was still alive and I decided to leave it till it died a natural death before I would try to harvest that burl. Last year the tree finally did die and this summer I cut the tree down to acces the burl. The section with the burl was so heavy I could only roll it over, and that with considerable difficulty. I knew I could never get it out of the forest without cutting it into pieces. I used the chainsaw to quarter it, hoping I was not cutting through the best parts of the burl growth. Still, each section was large and heavy ... and yes, it was at the farthest-most point of my trail system and would require the greatest amount of energy to bring it out. I completed that task today.
I took Thrum with me and did not have her on leash as a way of seeing how well she would respond to my commands to stay with me and on the trail. i was very happy to see that she curbed her natural curiosity and energy bursts to stay quite close to me all the way. She knew that when we reached a fork in the trail or even an open area along the trail, that I might go in one of several directions, she would pause and watch to see the direction I pointed the wheelbarrow, and then take off in that direction. She still is a puppy with the brashness of an energetic Airedale Terrier, and the instincts to tear off in pursiut of a new scent or the flutter of a bird or the chatter of a squirrel, which are still there. But they are being tempered by a desire to respond to my commands and my approval of her good behaviour.
Trees are in full fall colour array, and with warm weather and clear skies and bright sunlight, things are brilliant. On Sunday I joined with a good friend and we started off on a trip South along Highway 2 and 5 toward the area where I was born and grew up. We detoured north of Highway 5 to check out the view from the top of Mt. Carmel. The wind was blowing, the sky was clear and the landscape was breathtaking to see. We enjoyed this and also took time to pray and then to share some food that I had packed. After this we headed further East to my home are south of Englefeld. I had hoped to show my friend a place where some medicine plants are growing, but the area is now fenced off and holds cattle along with a few bulls. Having grown up with farm animals I have a healthy respect for how protective a bull can be of its harem, and knowing that I had no chance of outrunning a bull, or for that matter, even outrunning my friend, we stayed on the people side of the fence. A visit to the church graveyard and some prayer at the graves of ancestors and deceased friends, and a visit with my sister, and then a good trip back home. It was a good day in many ways. When I take the time to process the photos from Mt. Carmel, I will post a few to share with the readers of this site.
October 5 insert: I did a quick resizing of some of the images from this day in September and have posted them on a separate page. Click on the image here to go to that page.
August 26, 2014 My hope expressed yesterday about a possible end to Beaver dam building was short-lived. This morning I found that they had rebuilt the structures last night. And, yes, this morning I deconstructed their work!
The water levels are now dropping so that soon the pond will be back within its normal high-water confines and I will leave things that way. My objective had been to reduce the over-fill and so remove the threat to the soil that underlies my house foundations. A few trees submerged as a result of the summer rains and the pond high levels might recover if their root systems have not already been killed off. I hope for them.
August 25, 2014 This morning was the 4th day in a row that the beaver had not rebuilt their dam to block the outflow from Friendly Forest. In checking back on my calendar they had been rebuilding the dam for 40 days and I had been taking it apart for 40 days.
In OT writings, the number "40" had special significance; it represented an amount or a duration that was long enough for something important to happen. It did not necessarily mean an actual count or a count record, just a significant duration. Hence the 40 day rainfall and the flood, the 40 years in the desert wilderness needed to create a nation from a slave population, or the 40 days of fasting in the desert before the public life of Jesus.
I have previously used the "40" count as well, making 40 prayer ties of the four colours to represent all of the gifts I had received from Creator during a period of my lifetime.
While I am not ready to declare that the beaver will not rebuild that dam nor that they have moved on to a location with better Aspen provisions, but if they were moving on and had decided there were no longer enough reachable Aspen trees around the pond here, now would be a good time to move on. They would still have time to build a new home in a new location and also to provision a winter pantry near to it.
I have resumed trail clearing work and am facing a rather daunting task; there is still a lot of large tree dead fall from last winter and the under story has had a great summer of growing.
It has not been a good summer for me here from several perspectives; The winter refused to end. That was followed by a cold and very wet spring and then the massive invasion of the Forest Tent Caterpillars, and then hordes and repeat hordes of mosquitoes. In the midst of this I lost my best friend Edward when he died near the end of June. Even though I was fortunate in getting my new companion, Thrum, I had not properly worked through the grieving cycles that follow the loss of a close friend. All of these facts, and the efforts to find a new normal schedule with the vagaries of a new energetic puppy in the house and the morning battles with the beaver construction projects, I have lost some of the old balance I had known before and am working to find a new balance. Spending more time in the forest will be a huge support for this effort as I can renew my special relationships with my Standing Nations friends.
Over the past week I have been able to gather two special plant medicines and have them drying in my mechanical room. During the summer I need to operate a de-humidifier in that space and I have found that to be an ideal environment to dry plants. There they dry quickly and there is no sunlight or morning dew to deteriorate the drying plant tissues.
August 14, 2014 It has been an eventful month at Friendly Forest.
I have been able to welcome a new resident to Friendly Forest. A young (4 month old) Airedale Terrier pup has come to be a companion to me. "Thrum 2 / Thrum" has grown in size and into my heart and home. I have not had a pup before, with my previous dog companions coming to me when they were already older. My first dog was an Airedale Terrier and his qualities were respected and deeply loved by me. So when I was able to acquire another Airedale, even though it was too soon in my grieving cycles, I took the opportunity. She has immediately taken over here and even my best efforts to "puppy-proof" the house have not been completely successful. We have bonded quickly and well and she could be my shadow in how closely she follows me.
In my last posting I had expressed the hope that the beaver would not take the running water as a personal challenge. My hopes were in vain. The very next morning they had constructed a dam to stop the water flow. I got to work and undid their engineering work, but the next morning it was back. This build / un build cycle has persisted every day since. I have been asked why I did not attempt to kill the beaver as they were likely to be very persistent in their efforts. I knew that if I did somehow remove them in a few weeks another pair would migrate in, and the same issues would renew. I needed to find a way of living in balance with them. Since they did not listen to me when i told them that it was to our mutual advantage to lower the water level of the pond, they were not ready to accept my line of argument. So our struggle / contest continues. Neither this stubborn German Canadian nor the very Canadian Beaver has scored a decisive victory, I think this two-legged contestant is ahead on points.
By keeping the water flowing during daylight hours, the pond levels have dropped about 14 inches . It is my hope that this will allow some trees more recently flooded, to recover and survive. We will see,
The trees and most of the shrubs have put out a new set of leaves to replace those lost to the Tent Caterpillars. I have a few Saskatoon Berry bushes near my house that actually have produced some large and delicious berries and I was anticipating picking a few bowls to enjoy at my table. This morning, as I watched a variety of song-birds landing and feasting I decided to let these for the birds alone. I have alternative food but they do not. Most berries were totally destroyed by the caterpillars, and the few surviving shrubs should be there to feed my other forest companions. Besides, I will get more pleasure in watching them eat the berries than I would in eating them myself.
The 263ArtStudioTour event seemed to go well here. I had 69 guests come to see the work Miranda Henderson and I had on display at Friendly Forest. I have also been able to welcome other guests subsequent to the two tour days.
The extra time I need to spend with Thrum and in my contest with the Beaver has put me well behind on other tasks. I will do as I can and hope that the choices I make along the way are the best ones.
July 11, 2014 Over the past decade we have had well above normal amounts of precipitation in this part of the world. Water levels in standing basins and in river channels has been beyond the experience of those with living memory of the area. 12 years ago we were dealing with very serious drought. Now we seem to be dealing with flooding.
Friendly Forest has been part of that pattern. Images on the forest Photos galleries showing pond levels in the later 1900's bear little resemblance to the pond today. The pond at Friendly Forest is a glacial kettle remnant as are many smaller bodies of water in Saskatchewan. However, along the south west margin of the pond there is a deep channel that leads Westward, and is the natural overflow of the pond. I never expected to see this channel actually having flowing water in it, but it was always a comforting thought that the pond water levels could only reach a certain height before they flowed further on in the watershed. The main highway that crosses a corner of my property is actually like a huge dam across this channel. When the highway was constructed a culvert was installed under the highway. Over the years run-off from the road ditches would pool in this low spot and the culvert would allow the water to cross under the highway. A few years back a contractor working for the Highways Department used a long reaching excavator to scrape down the young trees that were starting to create an issue with the edge of the highway. I believe it was at this time that the culvert was blocked, and for the past few years water damned along the East side of the Highway. With pond levels at record highs and backing up right to the very edge of land at the base of my home (Though the house is set higher into the hill) I was getting very concerned that the safety valve of the overflow was not available and the high water could cause flooding of my Initi and even weaken the soil base under my house footings and possibly cause it to slump toward the pond. Consequently I had been asking Highways authorities to arrange to have the culvert opened. Highway crews have been understandably busy with situations of greater urgency but finally the culvert has been opened and the excess water has begun to drain out of the pond along this channel.
I have started to clear dead fall and debris that might impede this outflow and I am now hoping that the beaver do not take this as a challenge to stop this egress.
The tent caterpillars have largely pupated and everywhere we see the white silk of their cocoons. Also now the trees that had been denuded are able to put forth some new leaves and a certain amount of green is reemerging.
While I and many others fretted over the damage done to the trees, I found that the low-growing herbaceous under story plants were thriving, having unprecedented access to direct sunlight that was not filtered by leaves in the upper story. I guess with Earth Mother things do have a balance that we find difficult to discern at times.
Tomorrow is Full Moon for July and I will be able to host another Inipi ceremony here at Friendly Forest. I look forward to this time and the opportunity to bring my own spirit out of a time of deep mourning at the loss of Edward. As any reader of this account will recognize, the loss of a loved one leaves a hole and the many reminders of the loss happen at the most unexpected moments. As any dog-lover will testify, the companionship of a dog is one of forgiving and patient love for the two-legged one. With the kind of situation I had here, Edward was a 24/7 companion and separation even for a few hours was rare since he first came to live with me. We have that kind of sharing of life experience with very few others during our life times on this side.
July 02, 2014 We have had a lot of rain, and the tent caterpillar infestation is severe in this area so working in the forest is unpleasant. So I decided it was prudent to do shop work. I have posted images of recent work on my Wood Turnings; Gallery 5 page,
June 24, 2014 This morning I took the bottle of window cleaner out of its slot in my car door, got a clean rag and washed the inside of all my car windows. I also open the strings that held a canvas tarp which covered the back seat to protect it. I have put some things into storage and have spent about two days washing pillows blankets and bedding. I removed furniture throws and washed them as well and then folded them and am still looking for a place to put them.
These are a few of the things that I feel driven to do as soon as possible. On Sunday morning at 02:30 my best friend, partner and companion died while I held him close. Edward appeared healthy and was acting normally till about 19:30 on Friday, June 20. From there things suddenly took a severe turn for the worse. After a minimal rally earlier on Saturday Edward started to die, even if I tried to hold out hopes that whatever had happened would pass and he would recover. I did know better. I had been present when others had died, and some symptoms are similar whether in humans or in our four-legged friends.
Vet clinics were closed for the weekend and the costs of emergency call-outs, even if possible, would be very expensive. A consideration of Edward's symptoms seemed to point to severe toxic poisoning, a disruptive tumour, or a heart attack or some other major organ failure. Bloat or torsion in dogs did not seem to fit the key feature that he was able to vomit and later to swallow some water when given directly into his mouth. Although I wonder what the actual cause of death is, I do not really need to know. I know that nothing will return him to me as a live companion.
I wish to thank very good friends whose friendship and support have meant a great deal. A special thanks to Ken, Jordan and Olivia for helping me return Edwards's body back to where he and we came from, to Mother Earth. Now I need to re-direct my focus from my loss to a positive recognition of the many blessings, graces shared and the personal growth made possible by having walked three years of my Journey with such a wonderful friend.
June 14, 2014 As tranquil and beautiful the forest appears to a casual observer, the reality is that it is a complex ecosystem with many different kinds of relationships between its occupants and the earth and water.
I have lived out here for nearly 27 years and am aware of only a few of these connections, and then having only a rather superficial understanding of them at that. I was reminded of that again yesterday. A Western Phoebe had built its nest on a ledge above the door frame by my north-west corner air lock. I had been avoiding using that door to avoid disturbing the nesting birds. Over the past week or so the adult activity has been non-stop, even into the waning light hours of 10:00 PM / 22:00 hrs, and again early in the morning. I felt good about this and it appeared that they had escaped the predation of the local squirrel populations too. From what I had seen in past years, if the nest location was able to thwart the squirrels, when the young birds left the nest the squirrels would ruthlessly hunt the young fledglings that had not yet a good capacity to fly and who sought shelter in the very spruce boughs that were the squirrels' hunting territory.
Yesterday I looked out of a window near that nesting site and saw what appeared to be a fluff ball on the ground near the nest. Since the Aspen are shedding their seed fluff I first thought it might be one of these from the Cottonwood near here. But it was too grey for that. Then a quick second look and I saw a larger bird sitting near that fluff ball, and it was not an adult Phebe, it was a bird of prey and checking a bird ID book later, I believe it was a female Kestrel or a rather small or immature female Merlin. I go for the Kestrel judging by size. I was happy to see this bird but despairing of what it had done to the Phoebe nest.
I walked away reflecting on the predator - prey relationships that always generate emotional conflict within an anthropomorphizing human, and for some reason went back there a few minutes later to find the Kestrel gone but one young hatchling still on the ground. I thought it dead and opened the door to remove its body and give it a respectful place to return to the earth. The adult Phoebes were making continuous cries of distress. When I got closer I saw some slight movement in that fluff ball and realized it was still alive. I picked it up and returned it to its nest in the hopes that it was not seriously injured because of its softer bones, and that the parents would come back to it. Later in the afternoon it was apparent the adults had resumed their feeding flights which seemed to me an indication that the young bird was still alive and eating. It is still relatively early in the season and I have seen the Phoebe's have two nesting cycles in the one summer.
May 30, 2014 Spring is here and as fleeting as it is, I am trying to appreciate it in its many dimensional wonders. Last week I was able to take four days in the forest for my annual "retreat / spring fast" time. It was weather perfect and the mosquitoes had not yet appeared.
I value the time and opportunity to do such a thing and recall the many years when I was still employed of never being able to even consider taking such personal time. it is one of many gifts received.
The days following the quiet time have been busy with custom requests. One request was to construct stands to support hymn directory information for my own parish church. I accepted the challenge but did not quite understand how much time I would actually have to devote to it. There were a few special considerations that presented challenges to be overcome. Click on the image to go to the Custom Work Page to get more detail on this undertaking.
I have just completed a folder to hold the magnetic number cards.
The pond level is again higher than ever before and it is hosting an abundance of wild life, especially waterfowl of various species. The first to arrive, and dominant pair, have taken charge of the beaver lodge for their nesting site but there is another pair of Greater Canada Geese that seem determined to take over that position. That makes for loud and frequent battle scenes.
During my time at Eagle Camp I took Edward with me . He was most upset at small rodent visitors, be they squirrels or mice and would try to chase them down if they dared to infringe on the Tipi space. In the middle of the night that was enough to wake me and to assure myself that it was not Bear making a night time call. Bear has been visiting area yards. On my final afternoon as I began to pack my things to return to the house Weasel arrived and in one quick move under the Tipi liner folds, emerged with the mouse trapped in its teeth and made its way off for dinner. I hope Weasel continues to patrol that space for the rest of the season.
While outside on the morning of my second day a totally white fox came trotting down the Sacred Hoop trail and stopped for a moment to see who the newcomer was, and then quietly returned from where it had come. I had never seen a white fox before, It was not an arctic fox as they have shorter legs and stouter bodies and shorter ears. This appeared to have the body of a regular red fox of this area, but was white. I could not see if it had eye pigmentation etc as I was not that close to it.
When camping in the forest at night one can hear the many night creatures that one never hears during day time hours. I was pleased to hear several different types of owls calling back and forth. I did have thoughts about what this might mean as sometimes Owl carries messages and announces pending death, or just other messages of importance. A few years back two large owls perched in a tree adjacent to my deck and seemed to speak to me for quite a while as I stood just feet from their perch. then they flew one at a time, to the area of the Sweat Lodge. That year too, it was at the time I was about to do my Spring Fast. I choose to take it that they were telling me that they would be there to support my prayer time and if Eagle was not available, they would take my prayers to Creator.
Spring sunrises are spectacular and the hues that our Mother Earth puts on as it tries on a whole series of new dresses just takes one's breath away. Here are a few images that my camera commanded that I pause to take.
May 17, 2014 Yesterday morning there was still a patch of ice on the pond here at Friendly forest. I hiked into the woods to continue my task of clearing the walking trails that had a lot of dead fall and bent saplings and shrubs blocking the way. On my return three hours later I was thrilled to hear a full chorus of frogs greeting the belated spring. it is always a wonderful thing to hear in the Spring. Not only does it add to the chorus of ducks and geese already loudly proclaiming their territories, but it announces new life.
Wednesday was Full Moon and I was able to celebrate that day with a wonderful Inipi ceremony here at Friendly Forest. That might have been the only such time where going out for new hot rocks meant just going out and not being met by frigid temperatures or a swarm of hungry mosquities. It is a really delightful time of year!
I have finished some custom work requests and have also added to a collection of wood bases for glass vases These items can be viewed on the Recent Work Page and the Custom Work Page.
Last summer my old kitchen fridge failed in its task and froze all of my food several times over. It was over 20 years old and probably did not owe me anything . I began to explore for replacements. I wanted an all-fridge as I have a stand-alone freezer already. I did not need a ice-maker or water dispenser in the fridge, but most manufacturers did not provide any suitable options. As a result i started to consider commercial fridges and for several months debated about purchasing a "True" Commercial Fridge. I found my best price through Costco and finally decided that I would go for the double version the T49 model. The additional cost over the single model was not so much and it would still fit in the area I have for fridge and freezer in my kitchen. However the increased size of such a unit required me to remove a row of upper cabinets that had spanned the area since I first built this house. Having built the units and having secured them I also knew how to remove them in one piece without having to wreck anything along the way. Images from the HGTV remodelling shows flashed through my mind as I single-handedly removed the unit and brought it to the shop to remount it for additional duty out there. But somehow my memory did not seem to include the apparent weight gain of that 8 foot long span.
I ordered the new fridge unit and expected delivery for when I thought the gound would be dry and all of the snow gone. Folly! A few additional weeks of snow put those plans aside. It is a big and a very heavy unit. I am most grateful for the skill of the delivery truck driver (Thank you Dallas) who had to back a big semi down my winding driveway, and his strength and willingness to help me and my faithful neighbour John as we slid it off the truck, onto two transport dollies, down the sidewalk and up the ramp into the house and finally to be set upright again in the kitchen area. Even then unpacking and adding the large casters was made possible by the generous help of my neighbour. Thank you both, and I am grateful that it was accomplished without incident. Having lived and used the unit for a few weeks now, I am most happy with how it serves my purposes here. I am already finding that the cooler temperature is keeping food fresh much longer than its predecessor. Now I await the pickup of the old unit through the SaskPower Fridge / Freezer recycle porgram.
Last night Bear was here and must have been hungry as my garbage bin was tipped over and the single bag of kitchen waste it contained was dragged quite a way into the forest. Later I will have to clean up the containers and bags the bear left behind. I hope that it was not so appetizing that Bear will make repeated visits to explore further food options. It has been a long and hard winter and I am sure Bear is very hungry. I willalso make sure that I do not tempt Bear again.
April 18, 2014 I wish to congratulate Barbara Terfloff on the great work she has done to create and publish the website for our upcoming Art Studio Tour. Today the site goes public. Click on the image / logo to go to the site and visit it often.
March 25, 2014 I have been busy in my shop and have produced a new supply of Birch Wood and Birch / Walnut Cremation urns. Customer purchases had depleted my reserves. While I mainly make these units as special custom items to meet family or personal requests, I do keep several in different wood combinations ready for purchase when a family needs one in a hurry. Contact me for price quotes. You will find that my quotes are much below what a similar unit will cost from a funeral home or other retail supplier of such units.
I have also made storage boxes, both plain wood and decorated, to hold the napkins and napkin rings I have constructed earlier. I have also obtained some heavy-weight Irish Linen in a dark "Black Olive" colour and a "Cloud Cream" that will be made into additional napkins. I will post images when they are completed.
I have been obtaining commercial restaurant- ware stainless steel containers with steel lids and have constructed wood housing for these so that they can be both attractive and functional storage units for the kitchen or other parts of the home. I hesitate to suggest a use as there are more ways to use these than I am able to imagine. Check my Recent Work page to see images and descriptions of this recent work.
March 15, 2014 The days are longer and just before it became really dark tonight I was looking out of my window and saw the kind of drama that plays out in the forest all the time; I watched two deer racing across the open frozen pond area followed in hot pursuit by a single coyote. The deer made it to the edge of the pond and bounded into the forest while the coyote slowed and watched for a while before heading into the forest himself. What I could not see was whether the coyote I saw was the one to spook the deer into an ambush. There are at least three adult coyotes in the pack in this part of the forest.
I was conflicted. I was wishing for the deer to make its escape while I also considered that the deer would be the source of continued life for the coyote and its pack. Walt Disney be damned, I had eaten some meat for my own supper tonight. How was I any different from the coyote except I was not nearly so agile and could rely on others far away to provide me with my food. No matter where we are, we are an active part of the web of life, and that means we are part of the ending of life as well. We are no greater, not are we lesser, than the deer or the coyote. They are all brothers and sister as we have the one mother and the one father. It is best for us to not judge and not be taken in by the anthropomorphic images of the Disney Corporation and its corruption of how nature really is.
I was remembering a story on CBC coming from the Rural Municipalities annual meeting. Councillors from the North East were asking Government to introduce a bounty on wolves as they were taking some livestock in the area. In the discussion between the Councillor and the CBC reporter it was mentioned that one reason wolves might be leaving the forest fringe are to come into agricultural land adjacent to the forest might be because outfitters and others were putting out feed bait for deer. The deer would aggregate at those feeding sites created so they would be an easy target for the hunter, but that also made the deer an easier target for their natural predators, the wolves. How was a wolf to distinquish between a fast moving deer and a slower moving cow or calf? Where lies the fault in this picture?
The group of artists who organized and staged the 2013 Woodlands Artist Studio Tour in our area are planning for the 2014 summer version. We have decided to rename our Tour as "263 ART STUDIO TOUR" to both designate the area in which the artists live and work and to differentiate the Studio Tour from a group of artists who meet weekly to do their work at a Community Centre. Some of these artists are part of the Tour, but not all, and a name change seemed in order. Here is the general ad we will be placing in local advertising:
We will be placing brochures with local businesses in early summer. This brochure will include a detailed map and information about the sutdio sites and the artists. Mark these dates on your calendar. Feedback from the Tour of last summer was very positive with many compliments on the excellent quality of the artists' work shown and available.
Click here to see an early-edition of a Google Map showing artist locations.
At Friendly Forest, with moderation of temperatures, I have ventured back to my shop to resume work on some wood projects. One project consists of restocking my supply of Cremation Urns. Although I always try to have several of different types available for people who need one quickly and cannot wait for a custom construction, I had run out of two wood types. I have reached the stage where I have been able to bring them into my house and the finishing area to begin applying the finishes and lining of the "momento space" I usually include in each design. This time I will not add the final finish to the Birch wood versions to allow for an easier addition of personalized images and / or names to the units. Pyrography works better on the raw wood.
I will post images to my Recent Work page when they are finished.
I am also making a few special boxes designed to hold the napkins and napkin rings I have been making earlier in the winter. In addition to the print and plain cotton, and white linen napkins, I have now also acquired a heavy weight ( 7.5 oz / yd) linen in a deep brown / black olive colour. I have not yet cut and edged these but will prepare some soon to have them ready for individual or mixed sets. The boxes, when finished, will also be posted to the Recent Work page of this site. They are sized to hold a full table setting of wood or leather napkin rings and napkins. (From 4 to 12 settings).
I am looking forward to the arrival of warm weather and the snow melt so that I can spend more time at my outdoor projects. The arrival of heavy and early snow curtailed some of these last fall and it will be good to get at them again. Last year at this time I needed the support of a crutch to take weight off an injured foot. At the present time my body, though a year older, seems to be working much better than last Spring.
Tomorrow is the day of Full Moon again, and I look forward to the special prayer and ceremony time I am privileged to host here at Friendly Forest. For distant friends who would like to be here to take part in this, I remind you that each month has a Full Moon, and I would certainly welcome you when you let me know that you are planning to come.
Today is clean up, set up and food preparation day, so I had best get at it.
February 19, 2014 Recently I have had an old interest re-activated; an interest in how people about 1000 years ago lived in Northern and Central Europe. I had studied Medieval History when I was in University and enjoyed it a great deal. I was much less interested in the movements of monarchs and clergy than I was in how people of simple means lived. How did they dress, what did they eat, what were their homes and shelters like, how did they travel if they could, what kinds of technology was available for them? In other words, if I had lived at that time, what would my life have been like.
Unlike the great castles and fortresses, the humble homes of ordinary people did not survive and were not considered of value to even comment on. Images of battle array and outfitting have come to us in documents and drawings and paintings, but not so how a peasant farmer and his family fared. When I had tried to research this kind of thing some 15 years back I found very few resources to assist my study. A few books from the University of Toronto Library helped, but even then, tended to comment on the lives of ordinary people only in passing as they were written by and spoke of the lives of Monks, Clerics and Nobility; those with power and writing and reading skills that allowed them to speak of themselves and their own kind. The poor had no such means and so have largely vanished from historical memory.
The LARP communities have done some research and their information sites provide some good insights. Some years ago PBS had a Mystery Theatre series around the Brother Caedfel mysteries. This featured a Medieval drama from the early second millenium in south west England near the Welsh border. The actual filming was done in Hungary where landscape and buildings could be found or constructed that more closely fit the time period. I enjoyed the series mostly for the great detail the producers put into the settings and the costuming and life of the characters portrayed therein. The acting and writing of the series was great too. I purchased the series on DVD and have enjoyed and watched them many times, each time catching some element of information that had escaped my attention earlier.
Yesterday as the day began to brighten I glanced out of my dining area window and spotted some deer on the pond. It was still quite dark but I tried to take a few photos and have posted one on the Home / Index page. Here is another:
January 20, 2014 I have completed a series of Leather Leaf Napkin Rings and this afternoon took some time to photograph the Dinner Napkins and rings that I have been making. Click on the image below to go to the Recent Work Gallery to see more from this project.
January 19, 2014 I finally downloaded a few images from my camera. This is what my table looked like before guests arrived on Christmas Day 2013.
One of my guests took photos during the meal and sent them to me. I appreciate those images but choose to not post them on this site. I deliberately do not post images of people to this site to prevent abuse by image harvesters.
Because not all of my guests could be seated at the main able at Friendly Forest (capacity of 14), I decided to bring up two temporary tables and use the main table as the buffet area.
I have completed a custom order from last fall. It is a cremation urn with a Walleye and some script added to the unit. I appreciate the trust customers place in me when they order such a special personal item.
I have completed two series of 100% cotton napkins and Black Walnut napkin rings and am working on another series of leather naplin rings that have a leather leaf added to the leather ring. I have not yet taken photos for posting of these items but will do so shortly.
January 9, 2014 A new calendar year has opened its pages for us and it has been three weeks since Winter Solstice, so things are looking up in the world. It has been bitterly cold here at Friendly Forest as it also has been in much of western Canada and even the continental USA. I have been warm and since Edward starts hopping on three legs after few minutes when the thermometer drops below - 20 degrees, I have not spent too much time out of doors. Instead I have been reading, viewing DVD's purchased earlier in the year, making food and enjoying Christmas with family and friends, and doing things that have no practical value at all.
I learned how to do an eight-strand rope braid, learned how to do four strand flat and round braids, made a bunch of leather leaf book marks and began the process of renewing my supply of napkins and napkin rings for sale.
As a child I was taught how to braid three cords and even how to make rope on the farm. Those were practical skills and made use of binder and baler twine that otherwise would have been wasted. Since my siblings and I were the likely ones who would have to use those home-made ropes to tie up cattle and horses, it was a skill worth learning to do reasonably well.
I purchased two kinds of 100% cotton fabric to use to make dinner napkins. I appreciate the advice I can get at the fabric shop where I get this material as this is NOT one of my skill areas. However, if I want to have a quality product for customers I need to start with quality materials. I will post some images to my Recent Work section when I have them finished. Over the years I have made different styles of wood napkin rings for dinner napkins, but always preferred a simple black walnut square with rounded centre hole edges and slightly rounded outer edges. it is simple enough, but making them requires precise repetitive work. Once made they needed to be sanded and then finished with Danish Oil finish ... several times over. Anyone who knows me understands that I hate repeating the same task many times, and yet if it is an outcome I really want, I can muster the patience to do so. These experiences affirm for me the fact that I would have gone mad as an assembly line worker in industry.
Before Christmas I was making various stocking stuffer items for the dinner guests I would have on Christmas day. I purchased sometimes, hand crafted some others, and prepared small jars of both LEmon Curd / Lemon butter and a brandied mixed dried fruit compote. I had not made the fruit compote since 1967 (and yes, I am that old), but the memories of the ambrosia-like aromas and tastes tempted me to try again. I did not have the two or three months to allow the fruit to dwell in the brandy mixture as I had done in 1967, but a slow simmer in a special spiced syrup with a great variety of dried fruits, produced a wonderful product ... or at least I thought so. I made a double batch so I would have some left over for myself into the new year.
I did start the wood fire in my shop stove and did a few days work out there this week. It felt so good to be out there again with the different woods and dust and clutter that renews my spirit.
I have been observing the full moon with the Inipi ceremony even though it has been cold on those days. When I am chopping the wood or hauling the rocks in bitter cold I wonder if I have lost my sanity. Then, when all is ready and the fire lit and the hot rocks brought in for the prayer times, I know that was the most sane thing I had done all month. The base lesson for me is that doing what my heart and mind know are the right things to do might not be pleasant some times, but pushing through with it, calling on the disciplines of good work, is what I am called to do, and yes, it is worth it.
I have archived the 2013 entries and they can be accessed by clicking on the link at the end of this column.