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Friendly Forest Happenings 2015

December 21, 2015

I took a photo from the edge of my deck and it shows an area where the high water had drowned out a lot of trees. There had been a heavy fog and tree branches were encrusted in hoar frost and it was still before sunrise and as it the case for so many hours in the winter, everything was in deep shadow.

The photo reminds me that during times of deep shadow across the land, colour also vanishes and things become very black and grey and blue. In fact, a lone rose hip with its bright winter red seems to glow against its somber neighbours. Even the very muted tan colours of dried grasses or a few stubborn leaves clinging to tree branches have a prominence I would never notice at other times. When I normally look out onto the winter landscapes around me my mind’s eye adds colours that come from the memories of times when the sun was higher in the skies and the light was not filtered for such a long distance through the atmosphere, when colour and life and warmth were everywhere around me. I guess my mind saved those colour memories just as we save food from the good times of the summer abundance, giving us something to feed on during the long winters.

The same with my colour memories of the land; those memories nourish my soul during the dark days of mid winter.

And then there is Solstice! When things slowly start to get brighter and we move on to a time when we can create new memories of the gifts of Father Sun, and once more store some of that profligate abundance within mind and pantry.

Just as we reach deep within to bring forward memories of colour and warmth and fill the woodbox with firewood to stay alive, it is also from within that we need to reach to bring forward the light to dispel the darkness of Spirit that we experience. We have been gifted during the summers of our lives enabling us to reach into that treasure trove to bring forward the light and warmth and Spirit Food that this world so badly needs. I guess this is why the early Christians selected the winter solstice to remember and celebrate what the the Incarnation of Emmanuel.

Happy Solstice , a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year full of all the good things our Creator, the Earth and our friends will bring to us. Reach deep within your own Spirit and the Spirit of those who care about you, and find the memories of light and warmth to support you until those brighter day arrive.

December 20, 2015 At the beginning of Winter a friend invited me over to his place to collect a large burl that had been growing around a large Aspen tree on his land. He had cut the tree down but the burl was so large one person could not handle it. I was interested and happy to receive such a gift. One never knows what one has until such a growth is opened up. Ants had also invaded that area and sometimes the wood has been so degraded that nothing useful can be salvaged. Last week I took a larger piece of this burl and put it on my lathe. I have posted images of the finished piece. View multiple images of a very intersting piece of wood by clicking on the image.

My generous friend has first claim on this first gift of the donor Aspen tree and the Earth from which it grew.

November 6, 2015 First General Services of Prince Albert, who were the contractors to repair the hail damage at Friendly Forest, were able to complete the roofs one week ago. The weather slowed things down considerably with wet and dangerous roofs and some days of rain and snow. I congratulate the workers for the good work they did and thank them fror doing what my body would no longer have been able to do. I still have the greenhouse to do myself next spring but I was able to tarp the roof and it is secure for the winter. The brown steel roof lacks the romance of the cedar shake roof, and the sense of accomplishment I had knowing I had done all of the work to bring them about, but the steel still looks good and is more suited for this forest environment.

I just returned from a walk in the forest and if the weather holds for a few more days, I plan to go out with a chain saw to remove fallen trees; some which fell from wind, and others that the Beaver have dropped across the trails. Thrum was totally in her element racing along the paths and into the forest in search of new smells and just for the sheer enjoyment of racing full tilt where she wished. Her routes closer to home have been well travelled and real paths have been worn into the forest floor where she regulary patrols, but this was new territory which we had not travelled for a while.

I have also been in the shop making more Birch platters and adding analine dye colours to them. I find that I find each of them intriguing and attractive in their own ways. Have a look by going to the Recent Work I Gallery.


October 17, 2015 I have completed a special project for a Catholic Church in Prince Albert. Earlier this fall I was invited to help take down and then salvage the wood of a Burr Oak that was growing too close to a church building. I had never worked with that wood before and I was excited about a new experience. I turned a few pieces and found that as the wood dried it shrank a great deal in the sapwood and very little in the heartwood, making serious checking an issue. I used the largest diameter pieces for the project; a holder for a glass bowl that would be used to be a holy water font at the church entrance.

My first effort looked great ( I think) in that I preserved some of the rough and dark bark, turned at an angle the bark layers revealed a rich red brown pattern, and then through the light sapwood and into the dark brown and highly figured heartwood. Things were going well when during the drying process, small checks expanded and joined and a serious crack evolved on one side. I did not think it detracted from the piece. Rather, I thought, it gave it more interest and even suggest all sorts of life metaphors. But my own taste is not that of everyone else, so I took the second largest disk of wood and tried again. This time I knew I had to provide a relief hollowing from the bottom and around the bowl enclosure itself. That separation of the outer part of the log and the inner, shaped bowl area, was enough to prevent the serious crack of the first attempt. After it had dried and shrank to what is a reasonably stable version of itself, I re-turned the piece for a final fit of the glass bowl it was to hold.

I have sealed the wood with several coats of poly urethane and then covered the inside and upper areas of the outer bowl with a poly-resin to deepen the rich appeance of the wood and to make it water proof. Here is what it looks like upon completion:

Burr Oak basin with glass bowl

Burr Oak basin without glass bowl

A different angle showing the asymetry of the piece. For me the bark and the asymetry of the piece more truly evoke the original tree from which the wood comes.

First General had a roofing crew out on Friday. They got the steel and mostly finished doing the garage / shop roof. With a bit more finishing work there, the next part of the project is the house roof. Weather permitting, I hope that can begin on Monday. There is rain forecast for Tuesday, and that is not good news.

September 29, 2015 Thrum is a true Terrier. She is intensely territorial and the resident quirrels are not to be tolerated. They mock her and just climb their trees, and she is oblivious of their mockery. When ever we go outside she dashes off on her rounds to check on the quirrels. Her routes are so established that she is wearing a groove / path into the earth where she races around buidlings or clumps of trees. Usually she will come on a call or a whistle, at the same high speed race that she uses. Sometimes she will overshoot a corner and have to double back. There are also times when she is on a chase that is just too intense or delicious to heed my call to come. I will call once or twice and then just wait. She will eventually appear, stand and look at me with tail down, and then wait to see some sign of the degree of my displeasure before she approaches. If I stand beside the gate of the enclosure (which I have taken to calling the "sin bin"), she will meekly just walk inside. It ordinarily takes no more than 15 or 20 minutes of this isolation technique before she is ready to follow me in and then undertake a whole series of "sucking up" manoevers to ensure that we are OK. Recently there was a video featured on a news site that showed a dog "sucking up" / begging forgiveness of its owner that made me laugh because it reminded me so much of the attitude and reactions of Thrum. However, the dog in the video was even more determined to get a pardon for some transgression.

Thrum also shows her Terrier traits by digging after ground animals, and with damp soil that means she will soon be full of mud and sand. That means a trip to the shower and a clean-up which she does not enjoy. Since I have turned off the cold water supply to my outdoor hoses, she at least gets a warm water shower inside

I have trouble imagining such a high energy dog confined to a house or even an urban back yard or just walks on leash. I am very happy with my decision to get Thrum II, and though Airedale Terriers present thir own challenges, she is a wonderful companion that forces this older guy to keep active too. She is gift on so many levels.

September 28, 2015 Last night was both Super moon and a total eclipse of the moon, producing what is called a Blood Moon. Shortly before it was to begin clouds came over and it looked as if I would see nothing. But the strong winds which were blowing in colder air also proceeded to clear the clouds and I had a great view from my deck which faces NE. I suspect that I am just one of many who too seldom pause to consider just who we are in relationship to all the Creator has made. We puff ourselves up thinking that we have an elevated importance when our reality is that we are just one unique and wonderful creation among so many others. The awesomeness of what surrounds us and extends so far beyond what we can even imagine, is testimony to the true wonder of Creator. Wakan Tanka, or Great Mystery seems like a better term to use than single term / names like "God, Deus, Gott, Dieu, etc".

Shortly before evening came on this land and the moon rose in the East, a mature Bald Eagle was circling the pond area. Several times I lost sight of it but then found that it had selected the top of a dead Spruce tree where it perched and seemed to be settling for the night. Its blazing white head and tail flashed in the growing darkness whenever it raised its head or spread its tail to adjust its perch or to view its surroundings. Eagle is my primary Spirit Helper, and I was grateful to have been able to acknowledge its presence.

Today is the day I reserve for the Inipi prayer time here at Friendly Forest. and right now the fire is heating the rocks that will bring into the Lodge the fire from Father Sun, mediated by the Standing Nation and Tunkas. Whenever I am able to gather the wood and rocks and make the fire and bring the heated rocks into the Lodge I wonder about the deprivation of those who would wish to have this prayer form available to them but for reasons of where they live or other factors, seldom or never have that opportunity. I have been very blessed but I have not earned or deserved these many blessings that have come to me, but I do appreciate these times to say a simple "thank you".

I got back my car from Trudel's Auto body Shop in Prince Albert after they repaired the damage done by our July 16 hails storm. it looks good again and I appreciated the access to a loaner car that I got from them. Thank you for work well done and professional consideration of me as a client.

I still await word on whether I will get my building roofs repaired before winter comes. I have dismantled Eagle Camp for another season and am trying to get things tidied up before snow flies. Getting caught early over the past few years makes me more wary than usual, and I do not assume any extension of good fall weather.

September 8, 2015 I had been working to complete two custom orders before the weather turned cool. I did not make it. I was using contact cement to assemble the components and that, like glues, requires a warm temperature. I prefer to assemble larger units in the vehicle portion of my shop rather than in the small and very crowded insulated space. I missed by several days.

I moved the units into the insulated space and added heat to complete the construction, and then hauled the units to the house to add the finish coats.

Click on the image above to go to the Custom Work gallery to see additional images.

Although we have not yet had a frost the signs are abundant that that is soon to come. With the completion of these two custom orders I should be able to turn my attention to the many pre-winter tasks that need to be done around Friendly Forest.

August 27, 2015 We have had a few cool nights that remind us that it is time to make winter preparations. I have started to move firewood under a secure shelter. The tarp that was over the wood got quite a beating during the hail storm. I have completed a few Spruce wood plates. I continue to experiment with the application of aniline dyes to sealed wood and the combination of physics, experience and luck seem to be working more and more in my favour. Have a look. Click on this image to see all 5 plates.

August 4, 2015 The past weeks have been quite busy and stressful in dealing with the aftermath of the storm. We got another hailstorm a few days after the first one but the ice was only about 1 inch diameter and did no additional damage beyond stripping even more leaves off the trees.

After things settled down an insurance inspector in formed me that my house and shop roofs needed to be replaced but that they were not clear that Insurance would cover it because of the age of the roof. I had some pretty stressful nights and days trying to consider how I would pay for that without insurance. I was fortunate in that my Insurance company will cover to replace the roofs but that will still take some time. At least my current roof is not damaged to the point where it is leaking. My car was evaluated at over $9,000.00 damage, but repairable.

Paying the deductibles and then in later years dealing with higher premiums is an unexpected and serious concern, but it should be do-able. It could have been much worse.

July 25, 26 were the days of our 263 Art Studio Tour sale and site tour. I was happy to welcome 116 guests who seemed to appreciate my work and also stroked my ego with kind comments and purchases. Thank you to all guests to Friendly Forest.

This area has been getting additional rain and the wild fire threat is largely gone, much to everyone's relief. I cannot imagine the stress being experienced by those families who returned from their evacuation period to find their homes destroyed by the fires. Really huge areas of forest in Northern Saskatchewan were destroyed by the wild fires of this summer.

I purchased some additional fire hose and a control connector for my own fire protection system, and I am testing things weekly to make sure the system is ready if needed.

A recent walk into the forest to Eagle Camp showed just how destructive the hail was to the trees in this area. Some look as if winter had stripped them, and even grasses and other ground plants are flattened as if a herd of elephants had wandered through. Things will return but I cannot help but consider that all of Creation is paying the penalty of destructive human practices. If there is a "final reckoning" we need to face, how will we answer the claims of the rest of our fellow creatures?

July 17, 2015 It is 16 hours since the hail storm and there are still some piles of hail ice on the ground and in some pools of water.

July 16, 2015 ... later in the day.

Shortly after making the entry below a severe thunderstorm with large hail hit this area. My garden that was showing promise is gone, my car has many dents, trees have lost many branches and leaves and my green house roof of Choroplast material is shredded too. More than two hours later there are still areas with several inches of piled hail stones. While most were less than 1 inch in diameter, there were a good number of golf-ball sized stones that did the real damage. Tomorrow will be the time to assess further and start the clean up. I do not think I have any broken glass anywhere though some bouncing hail stones were hitting with a real wallop even when they were not direct hits. My dog and I were in the house and secure.

Water and ice piled onto my raised garden area. A few beet leaves stick out but most was just pounded into the ground.

July 16, 2015 It has been a busy month and a time filled with anxiety due to forest fire dangers and other things that happen in a forest land. The Tent Caterpillar infestation was bad, but not as bad as in 2014, and by now the worm stage has been replaced by pupation and adult emergence.

Our long dry period resulted in the explosion of wildfires in the forest to an unprecedented extent. Over 13,000 people have been evacuated from home and communities in the north and while fires are currently being held, they are not under control and still pose serious threats. While people have had the option of escaping to other locations where fire and smoke dangers were less, that was not the option for so many other brothers and sisters of other Nations. It is one thing to intellectually understand that fire is part of a forest landscape, it is another to be emotionally remote from what this means in the lives of so many.

At Friendly Forest I took out of storage the fire pump and sprinkler equipment I have not had to use for a decade. When I took it from storage and tried to set it up one especially dangerous Sunday afternoon, I found that the motor would not turn over. I did not know if the motor or the pump had seized. In the past the pump had seized because a very tiny snail shell had stuck in the pump. With that possibility in mind, I separated the pump from the motor and the motor tuned over easily. I was able to clean the pump and get it moving smoothly, but when reattached to the motor and primed, ready to go, the motor would not start. Fresh fuel and a clean plug and anything else I could consider had been attended to, but the motor would not fire! Thanks to a very considerate decision by Karl Rudniski of Charles Repair in Prince Albert, to have my repair request given service priority, I had a functioning engine by Tuesday morning. What a relief it was to have the water from the sprinkler heads covering my buildings and the immediate surrounding areas! Although it did not have to divert a wildfire sweeping through this part of the forest, it was a real comfort to know that things were ready. With extra fuel stashed near the engine so it would be ready if needed, I had done as much as I could. then I packed an emergency evacuation bag with the things that I really needed to save.

With the immediate concerns about imminent fire danger at rest, I returned to other tasks at hand. I have had to postpone the monthly Inipi for two months in a row because of the total fire bans for the entire forest region of Saskatchewan.

I have just completed the custom requests that I had in queue and can now prepare for our 263 Art Studio Tour event for July 25 and 26. www.263artstudiotour.ca

This year I have been delighted to watch a Kingfisher that has been here near my home.

With the drought this spring and summer the pond levels did not undergo a sudden rise in water levels as was the case in the past few years. As a result shore nesting birds are having successful hatches despite the increase in predator populations. The Phoebe that is nesting above the deck now has to contend with the predation efforts of the resident squirrel that loves to kill young fledging birds not yet able to fend for themselves. Last summer it was a raptor that raided the nest before the young could escape . Being parents in nature is not an easy task for any species!


June 4, 2015 Just a follow-up on the previous post; The Geese showed up yesterday with three healthy goslings closely guarded between the parents. They were being introduced to the green grass and other food at the edge of the water just below my deck area. The Grebes have settled down to stay on their floating nest so their early efforts seem to be paying off as well. A robin had been manufacturing a nest on the top of the wooden Sacred Hoop that I have attached to my outside wall. We had a very windy day and that must have caused the structure to slip off and fall to the ground. I picked it up and positioned it in a more secure part of the Hoop structure but Robin decided that was not appropriate, and salvaging most of the nesting materials, it re-established on its first site selection.

I have been speaking to some school groups as part of the programming of a local church camp. That has been interesting and fun as it reminds me of days long past when I was working in classrooms. As enjoyable as this might be, it does not make me wish I was doing that full-time again. Things are much better on this side of retirement.

I have been taking a bit of time to check out the instruction videos that came with my Adobe CS3 programs. There is so much to these huge and complex software programs that my use of them is very little of what they can do. Years ago I decided to forego flash features on my web site and also to limit image sizes etc in my effort to make my site accessible to people with slow internet access. At the time I was using a dial-up connection myself as that as the only option out here at the edges of the larger customer market that internet provider companies were willing to support. Once the basic structures of the site were in place and the site grew in size, a re-structuring of the site would require more and more time investment. As a result my site has grown but still using the old structures and based on the old decisions. I guess that my exploration of some of the other possibilities could be a preparation to a major revamping of the site later in the year ... or perhaps not.

May 22. 2015 Just a quick note; I just watched two Canada Geese take on a large Beaver, and the geese won ... at least this round.

The Geese have selected the large Beaver Lodge as the very best nesting site on the pond at Friendly Forest. It has a secure location above the water and it is surrounded by a large and deep moat to keep away, or at least to seriously disadvantage, land-based predators. The Beaver are apparently not great fans of these squatters on what they consider their turf. (None of the tenants seem to recall that they moved into or onto a large mud hill that I paid good money to have built some years back)

Anyway, the beaver came swimming directly at the geese but they hissed, flapped their wings and the Beaver slapped its tail in disgust and dove under the water to enter by its own entrance.

Last week I was privileged to host two wonderful friends for a short while.It was a delight to see them again and to spend some good time with them here and on the trails. I am now enjoying images that were taken by an expert and enthusiastic birder. Thank you for helping me to see better what I see every day .

I also made a trek out to Eagle Camp and tied up the Tipi liner. Last summer the Tent Caterpillars had encased nearly everything in their cocoons and I had to take the Tipi cover home to pressure wash it and then stored it for the winter. I took things back out and when I fastened the canvas over the poles it was clear that the canvas had shrunk to some extent. I pegged it down and let it that way for a few days to re-stretch the canvas. Then I went out again and re-staked the edges and today added the liner. I choose to not think about another possible worm infestation. The leaves are emerging with the warm weather and that could mean the worms are likely to emerge soon after. We will see. It is not as if anyone can do anything about them. I did hear that the RM planned to use spray to control them, but I do not imagine they would do so in this general open forest area. Most of the people in the RM live in resort developments around the lake perimeters, not out here in the general forest.

I also had an opportunity to meet some great young people and teachers from Bruno Central School and to share with them a bit of what I have been privileged to learn about the culture and values of our First Nations neighbours.


May 14, 2015 The weather has remained cool for some weeks now and the early burst of Spring has been in remission.

My main computer crashed and to compound the insult , the external drive on which my backups were being stored, crashed at the same time and I was not able to get a data migration to the replacement computer.

The fact that I had some basic features on my laptop saved me from a total tech disaster, but it was on the main unit that I did most of my work and on which I stored most of my archives and data. I think that many others will have experienced similar situations of data loss from our tech devices.

I was most concerned for the two web sites that I maintain. I was able to load my Dreamweaver program to my laptop and set it up to recognize the two web sites located on the remote server. Then I was able to download the files from that remote location and have a functional situation in that regard at least. The staff at the Best Buy Geek Squad worked on my backup drive for nearly a week and tried to retrieve at least some of the data. No such luck and I am resigned to the fact that it is gone for good.

At one stage of my reaction to the tech failure I tried to analyze my own inner state. I think it is valid to see it as a metaphor for death; it happens suddenly and mostly without warnings, and all the "stuff" we had considered so important and had been hanging on to, is gone and we need to move forward with only our memories of what had been. Maybe a more valid metaphor would be a refugee having to leave home country and family behind to start anew in another land. I realize that both are rather superficial comparisons and have no where the same significance, but by nature, I think there are parallels.

For friends who may not have heard from me for a while, this might be why though I have access to my address / contacts book but have lost all of the correspondence archives that go back many years.

Shop work has also been happening though I have not taken photos or posted images. I have been doing more work on the www.263artstudiotour.ca web site and our group has also been making other preparations for the July tour of our homes and studios. Take a look at the web site and see samples of the work of the 18 participating artists. Mark your calendars and if possible, plan to visit us on July 25, 26.

I had hoped to find the time to do my "Spring Fast" days in the forest before the mosquitoes arrived. That precious window of opportunity was lost with more urgent matter and a few snow dumps.

I am expecting guests to arrive later today and then others on the weekend. so I should be having good food and good company. The motivations to become more food-creative is greater when there are others to share at the table.

April 24, 2015  Today it was cool and then it started to snow.and then it snowed even longer.

I have been working on the web site for our 263 Art Studio Tour group.  While I still need to collect more and current information and images from our 18 participants, I have the basic structure of the web site in place and now on line too.

We needed to switch our web address from a .com to a .CA address, and now the site is:  www.263artstudiotour.ca

Click on our logo to go to the site. If you have an interest in our local art tour effort, please plan to revisit the site more often before  the Tour dates of July 25 and July 26.  I plan to be adding and updating material before and after the tour dates.  Bookmark this site and ignore the old version.

To this point I have borrowed heavily from the site that  Barb created for us last year.  She did a lot of good hard work and we have appreciated that great effort.  However, since Barb has decided to not be a tour participant this year the group has looked to me to take over the role of webmaster.  As the axiom  says, we stand on the shoulders of those who went before us.

April 21, 2015  I am working on a new web site and am using Dreamweaver . It has been a number of years since I last started off a new site and my limited experience had faded  with the erosion of memory.  As a result I started making problems for myself  in the initial instructions and preference panels.  So quite a few hours later I am back to where I was a day ago.  I tried to take a few short-cuts which  were like many of the road short-cuts in rural Saskatchewan ... it seems like a good idea until the road deteriorates and you find yourself in deep ruts  in a remote field and no help in sight.  When I have it as a functioning site I will post a link here.

April 13, 2015  Warmer weather  is melting snow and the ice on the pond is degrading.  Canada geese pairs are battling for access to the beaver lodge as a potential nesting site, and  a shift of temperatures brought on a short  rain shower.  Before the rain fell the skies  filled with majestic colours only partly captured in this image.


March 25, 2015  I have posted images of recent wood turnings to the Recent Work Gallery page.

The Cottonwood tree that had the large burl growing on it for many years had died a natural death a year ago, and late last fall I cut down the tree and brought the burl section to my shop.  I have started to open up the burl and discover what  lay hidden inside.  I have turned a few pieces and cut a few slabs.  The colours and patters in the wood are really exciting.  I was also impressed with how dense  the wood seems to be when dried out.  I had feared a weak and crumbling  wood.  Still when a single piece has worm-eatened, bark and solid wood  in a single small space, it makes for interesting turning  experiences.  Check out the linked page to see the full image rotation of these burl pieces.

March 15, 2015  Today was a lucky day.  Yesterday a friend took me out to ice fish on Montreal Lake.  He tells me that it was a slow day but we took back five good pike between us, and the day was wonderful.  Although windy, as it often is on a large lake, it was relatively warm and our trek out onto the ice was not too far as we were hauling gear needed for the day.  Since I had dressed in layers and put on an overall pants, I was not wearing the belt that normally  holds my CELL phone.  I wanted to be sure it was secure so I put it into one of the top vest pockets and snapped it secure.  That was fine.  I did not lose the phone, but this morning, not thinking clearly, I threw that overall into the washer  with other clothing that had some fish slime and dirt on them, and walked away.  About 15 minutes into the wash cycle I remembered the phone and dashed down to see if I could recover it. 

Yes, it was in the wash, and wet, so I took it out and tried to dry the surfaces, took out the battery and tried to dry that, and then tried to operate the phone.  Nothing.  Totally dead.  Although it was a 12 year old simple  phone, it was all I needed as I only carried it for emergency purposes.  Now I would have to replace it!  I started a web search and cringed at the costs associated with  new phones.  I do not need a "smart phone", but I did want something reliable.  I wondered if I waited longer for the phone to dry out if it might still work.  Again, a later attempt yielded the same negative result. 

This afternoon, after reviewing still more phones and  being as confused as ever about what I should purchase as a pre-paid phone, I made another attempt by laying out the battery and phone in the warm sunshine we are having today.  Then I tried it again, with still no luck.  In one of the reviews on other phones I read a comment that spoke of the battery  of a phone  shorting and then not resuming easily.  Maybe if I tried to charge it again?  Nothing lost by trying.  So I put on the charger and there was a first sign of phone activity with the charger light  going on sporadically.  Another  stay in the warm sun, and another effort to charge the phone, and it seems to have come back to life and seems to be working!  I hope that this  continues to be so and I can same money I really cannot afford to spend.

So, the luck was in the probable phone recover and a lesson learned, and the no so great luck was the careless action of not checking all the pockets of the overalls before  laundry. 

My fisherman guide and teacher yesterday did a great job, and his cheerful  attitude was a good part of a good day for me.  At the end of the day after we had cleaned the fish we brought the fillets to my home and, following a recipe  Randy provided, we had a truly delicious Parmesan Pike supper.

Getting ready to auger the first hole in 4 foot thick ice.

Jigging at an ice hole.

At varying times the sun came through, but there was always a good wind across the ice of this large lake.

Looking southward while the clouds covered the sky.

Our five fish in the "fish morgue" waiting for us to take them to shore.

Randy insisted I take a photo of "my" first fish. Larger ones followed on this catch.

A dead set with a willow pole and attached bells to warn of a strike.

This is to the nearest shore line.  When the surface snow started to get soft it was like walking in dry  fine sand.  Good exercise!

February 28, 2015  Today was a very nice day  for me at Friendly Forest.  I was able to attend a gathering of family members who gathered at the home of a nephew.  With lives  operating in distinct  directions and our parents no longer living, the factors that used to  draw us together more frequently no longer are there.  I appreciate the efforts of all who did the planning and made it happen.  Thank you.  it was great to see you and spend that time with you again.

Earlier in the week I  decided to make a replacement stem for the Chanupa that I was first given to care for and pray with  over 11 years ago.  It came with a simple wooden stem attached to the catlinite stone bowl, and I was told that I was at least the third person to  be given that responsibility for this particular chanupa.  So it was with some hesitation that I finally accepted the advice from my deceased mentor Don and undertook to make  a stem of my own.  Some traditional stems  incorporated a spiral in the wood.  The spiral  represents the concept of the Sacred Hoop not being a static thing, not even being just in two or even three dimensions, but being a dynamic spiral that  reached ever higher toward  Creator.  Since the chanupa is the sacramental instrument that unites all of Creation in prayer to the common Creator,  the stem, with the spiral, symbolizes that aspect  of the ceremony.  The stem is also the part of a chanupa that most often  bears the elements most significant in the spiritual life of the Pipe Carrier, and would often be decorated with special symbols and  special attachments.

I was trying to keep these traditional considerations in mind when I set out to make my own stem.

In the past I  had made spiral stems for  other Pipe Carriers, so I knew how to do this in a piece of wood.  The maker has to  rely on carving methods and not just turning  procedures.

I made two which I illustrate on my Custom Work Page.  I do not show the stem  and the bowl attached as these two  parts are not joined except when being used in the ceremonial prayers.   Those familiar with  this special ceremony will understand my references here.

I wanted to add some beading to decorate the stem which I made from Pauo Fero / Iron Wood from Brazil, and I wanted to use a Peyote or Gourd bead weave  method to  create the tight cylinder of beading.  I had done some of this in the past and had learned the techniques then, but I had  rather forgotten how  slow and intensive this can be, especially when  a design is being created by this method.  Traditionally an expert beader would  insert one bead  in an incorrect manner in the finished piece.  There needed to be an imperfection as no human can truly attain perfection, as that trait is only applicable to Creator.  I can assert that I had no need to insert such a "ghost" or imperfect  feature as there were many imperfections  in my work even though I was striving to do my best.  If I ever need a lesson in humility all I need to do is attempt such a project that  so many others have mastered  to a degree  well beyond my  comprehension.

February 23, 2015  I have just returned from a good hike in the forest.  I had to break new trail for part of the way with snowshoes and part was over  trail segments that I worked on last week.  This is what our weather is looking like today:

What a difference 24 hours can make!  This comes with a very strong wind which is bringing back colder air once more. 

Over the past few months I have been in the process of replacing  Halogen and Compact Fluorescent light bulbs with LED bulbs.  The slow turn-on of the Compact fluorescent and the fact that they really do not do well at all in cold temperatures has been an irritant even while I appreciated the lower  electrical consumption.  The cost of the LED bulbs is very high still and it takes an act of faith in the claims of longer-term savings to make that investment.  I like the variety of light colour options from very warm to bright daylight at the higher K  ratings.  In some cases I wanted to put in GU10 bulbs and did not want to replace the entire fixture which had the standard A19 screw receptacles.  I found some economical  A19 to GU10 adaptors on Amazon and appreciate the flexibility they provide.  In some other cases I wanted to install recessed spot lighting and the  LED's seemed the way to go.  That gives me  focused light where I need it at very low Wattages.  One of those areas was along the stairs connecting my three floor levels in my home.  When I built the house I  wired in three-way switches to a receptacle adjacent to each flight of stairs, but had only ever plugged in  an LED nightlight.  While that was sufficient for safety once  eyes had adjusted to  general darkness, there was that time  just after shutting off general lighting and then descending or ascending stairs in what  seemed like total darkness.  The older I get the more likely a stumble or slip can be the source of a debilitating accident; something to be avoided  at all costs.  I installed recessed, directional lighting  close to the  stair treads and find that they give excellent light for the feet as well as providing enough ambient light so that  the general area is adequately illuminated.  When I built the home  LED's  were not on any one's radar, and low-voltage  halogen lighting was  the innovative way to provide  good directional illumination.  The track lighting I installed then still serves the purpose well, though  as transformers start to malfunction, I have had to cannibalize  the fixtures from others that I replaced with regular 120 Volt track  units.  Now most bulbs have the two post connections (GU 10) as opposed to the earlier  narrow pin connections. 

February 22, 2015  This screen shot of our local weather is what greeted us this morning.  The good part is that  the prediction is for significant moderation  later in the day and overnight.

My friend Thrum is still growing, but at a slower pace.  I have not been  cutting her hair during these cold months and  she will soon resemble a small bear more than the trim Airedale that she really is.

She will be one year old next month and thankfully many of the  less desirable puppy behaviours are waning  unless we have visitors, at which time, she  totally reverts to excited puppy mode. 

January 28, 2015  After a week  of unseasonably warm weather the return of colder weather is heralded by a heavy snow fall.  I am waiting for it to stop coming down and then I will get the snow blower operational and clear my road and yard. 

I took advantage of the warmer weather and got my shop warmed up.  I need to heat it with wood heat with electric backup.  If I am gluing up boards for a project it takes a few days of warm temperatures for the glues to cure properly.  If they are chilled or frozen too soon they never form the bond required for long-term strong bonding.  It is embarrassing and a mini disaster to have a project start to come apart after a few years of use because the glue joints are letting go.

I had been given fir cut-offs from a gazebo project and I decided to glue some of these shorter pieces together to form slabs which I could cut into round disks for turning into platters and plates. 

After many years of experience I  should know better than to  try to use pieces that have end checking of the boards.  Trying to be frugal and  not make the blanks too small, I tried to use some  pieces that showed hairline fractures near the end of the board.  Things were fine until , on the lathe, the piece became very thin and nearly invisible hairline fractures, under the stresses of the turning process, became  wider and ruined the integrity of the piece.  A pile of shavings on the floor and a  turned disk good only for firewood were the outcomes of that work.

I did complete 7 pieces of varying diameters and have added decoration with pyrography and aniline dye applications.  After adding several sealing coats of finish to the pieces and letting them dry, I mixed up a two part poly-resin and applied it to the inner surfaces.  Instead of pouring it  onto the surface as suggested for most applications of this material, I brush it on , being careful to select a synthetic brush that will NOT lose its bristles  along the way. (Lessons learned from previous efforts)  This allows me to apply a thin layer and the brushing  releases the tiny air pockets that like to remain trapped in the resin mixture.  The thin layer  is also important when applied to curved surfaces where there is a tendency to slowly run to lower areas.  Since I purchase inexpensive  synthetic brushes I do not try to clean them and discard them along with the container in which I mixed the resin.  I find using small plastic drinking cups  works just fine to measure and mix the resin components.

When the resin cures and dries (after about 1 day), if I avoided dust particles falling onto the resin surface, and air bubbles did not emerge from  within some unsealed  section of the wood surface, the result is a rich and clear and glossy coating that  adds depth to the grain and colour of the wood  item.  The surface is durable and water proof and food-safe and significantly  adds to the functionality of the item. 

If I prefer a satin finish rather than the high gloss that results from the cured resin, I have found that letting the resin cure for  several weeks and then applying a "rubbing-out" process allows me to create the surface appearance I am after.  With round, turned objects, I remount the piece on the lathe, and with a series of  applications of very fine steel wool, two different grades of pumice powder and finally the application of  "rottenstone" abrasive on an oily  rag, I can buff the surface to the gloss or matte surface  desired.  The added  beauty of this rubbing out procedure is that the surface  feels like fine satin because the surface was recreated by  making finer and finer scratches  into the surface, and human touch can feel that modified surface.

While  the poly-resin finish adds considerably to the labour required to make each piece, the added beauty and durability is worth the effort.

This 15.5 inch diameter platter invites the imagination to conjure up memories or emotions.   This has Cordovan Aniline dye applied and is coated with a poly-resin finish

The same as above with the image inverted.  I find that a simple  flip of the image  invites different  things from my imagination

A smaller, 10.5 inch plate with an interesting fir grain showing through the dye.


A 12 inch diameter plate with a gold ring  enclosing  the plain wood of the centre. The dye pattern invites a closer examination by clicking to see the enlarged image.

Another 15.5 inch diameter platter with pyrography aspen leaves  encircling the centre. 

A smaller 7 inch diameter plate with a gold circle and pyrography edging.

The fir wood is not the nicest wood to turn and the contrast between soft and hard grain makes some things more difficult than  a more even-grained wood such as Birch.  However, the  contrast in grain surfaces  generates  interesting patterns when the dye is added.

January 3, 2015   The New Year has started off with some really cold temperatures.  Most of the Province is under  extreme cold weather alerts.

Since my last post in 2014 things have been eventful at Friendly Forest.  A good friend lost his wife and  their family a mother and grandmother just before Christmas. 

While we try to support others at their times of loss, we can never really understand the true nature of the loss.  Even comparisons to our own losses  are not valid because each unique person Creator has  placed among us, is just that, truly unique.  The relationships we have with others  are precious and special.  The losses that happen along our life Journey on the Sacred Hoop should be such that we  give thanks for what  was because of that person, and also give thanks for the gifts  of those who still walk beside us.

I was fortunate to welcome  guests  at my Christmas table and also to have guests who were ready to linger or who came later and so were able to help me deal with a lot of food leftovers. 

Thrum has now had her vaccination booster shots and is really a wonderful dog.  However, there are times such as earlier this afternoon where my inability to train her  in regard to certain key commands, leaves me frustrated but equally determined to continue till the required goals have been reached.  I believe that it is critical  for her to obey a "come" command regardless of what she might be doing or what game she may be inventing.  Such obedience  could be the thing that prevents a serious  accident or other danger.  Each dog that I have had  has been different and differed in their  willingness to obey  these basic commands.  An Airedale is not always willing to accept  these especially when excited or  in pursuit of a real or pretend prey.  What I have going for me is that she  always wants to be close to where I am, and she really wants attention.  Time-out in her cage is a rather effective consequence for undesirable behaviours just like a trip to the treat jar is a reinforcement of desired behaviours. 

Eventually  I know she will train me much more than I will have trained her, but as long as the  net outcome  is  a good one for both of us, that will be OK.

I am just back inside from the third training effort, and this time things worked like a charm.  I know better than to believe it will always be so, but she has learned that disregarding the call to come is not a good thing to do and that a treat and lots of praise and hugs is more desirable than time in her "sin-bin".   Now if we two-legged ones could only learn critical life lessons that quickly.  It is a good thing that our Creator has much more patience with us than  we seem capable of.

I am glad that things went better this time as it is really quite cold out there and it is also getting dark...


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