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Friendly Forest Happenings 2016


December 31, 2016 Earlier today I was writing to an American friend and I was doing a rant that comes from my views of American politics. While I point to what is south of the USA - Canadian border, I know all of those elements are part of the Canadian fabric as well, and I think that terror of it breeding and taking over here is what focusses my aversion to what I see in the USA ... as if it represents the dark clouds coming in our direction. I will just reprint my rant here as I wrote it;

"I can still not watch any American news network stuff. I really do blame them even more than I would blame FOX or the other systems that should have been checks on what was happening. The big networks had a field day all the way to the bank with free stuff that Trump provided daily, and they would put it into an endless feed loop and played it all the time, and in the fake “balanced news” imperative, they would loop the faults of Clinton as well. As a a result they had to do no journalism at all, and they raked in the money, and in this endless feed, brains were numbed and the unthinkable became ordinary and the Fascist nominee looked more and more attractive … or at least acceptable. I wonder what the ghosts of Italy and Germany of the 1930’s are talking about in their graveyards or what they spoke of in the concentration camps before their remains were deposited in lime-filled pits. I had huge regrets about the Obama administration and its policies, and I fear that the spy infrastructures and other violations of international law have set the structures in place for the full police state administration of the Fascist crowd. When I know that every keystroke that I am making in this email is being stored at that huge complex in Utah and all kinds of algorithms are doing their analysis, I know that was under the watch and direction of the Obama Administration. They were far better at this than even Cheney and Rumsfeld and GWB. The only redeeming feature I accept is that what would have been instead of Obama and his crowd would have likely been worse. When the severely tainted is seen as more desirable than its alternative, the whole thing is an ugly mess with real people and a real planet as thevictims."

I am ending this year on less than a happy note, and that is likely a reflection on things inernational as well as the difficulties and limitations I have encountered here at Friendly Forest. Still, I have rich and strong friendships that sustain me and a Creator whose constant demonstrations of love always quickly direct my prayer to a heart-felt "THANK YOU". It is still so very good. It is very good.

December 28, 2016 With the calendar year nearly ended, and long winter nights just beginning to turn toward the return of Father Sun, nights are long and there is time for reflection and time to get together with neighbours and friends as well.

In Early December I had a gas stove installed where I had my wood-burning stove of many years. My limitations in regard to harvesting firewood over the past year made me realize that such limitations are more likely to repeat due to other factors that go with aging. The "free" firewood that people imagine for one living in the midst of a forest is not really free. There is a lot of work that starts with dragging heavy logs out of the forest to cutting splitting hauling stacking bringing in, feeding the firebox to carrying out ashes and keeping pipes and chimneys cleaned. Chainsaw and wood splitters do not operate themselves, and to buy conditioned firewood reflects the labour costs of preparing it for the fire. So, since I already have a gas furnace installed and have that infrastructure cost behind me I made the decision to invest in a cast iron Valor Madrona gas stove that does not require electricity to operate.

Just after its installation our temperatures took a steep drop that lasted several weeks and the stove got a good test run. I am happy with its performance, and though its output in BTU's is well under the capacity of the wood burner, it was enough to keep the house comfortable and secure.

It was also about that time that a severe virus decided to come and take up residence in my body. I am just on the beginning of getting better but a hunt for symptom relief medications made me realize that all of the things I had like throat lozenges etc, were at least 10 years old. That helped me to recall that it was at least that long ago since I had such an infection. Although I should have been happy about that long period of good health, being under the impact of poor health took away any happiness I might have mentally conjured up.

While some of the symptoms were starting to get me concerned about possible non-viral causes, hearing the same symptoms being described by friends and neighbours actually brought a relief of some sort.

I composed a basic generic Christmas Thoughts letter to which I added personalized additions and sent out to many friends, I will post a link here to a PDF version of the generic part if anyone would like to have a look:

XMAS-2016_Reflections PDF

November 11, 2016 Today is a somber day of remembrance. I find that it is especially sad and ironic that the freedoms and liberties that so many died for have been so easily discarded as shown by the elections in the USA. Millions died because Germans and Italians VOTED in Fascist leaders who were going to solve all the problems, who had simplistic solutions, who ignored history and who lied to their people. They found within their societies minority groups that could be blamed and who were different enough to be held up as the scape goats. Yes, my relatives in Germany were part of a society that gave up what it had under the Weimar Republic and unleashed the darkness that should have never been allowed to crawl out of sewers.

With an incredibly clear view of who he was and what he stood for, enough Americans voted for Trump to give him that same kind of leadership.

I have been surprising myself at how deeply that situation is affecting me. It is as if I have suffered a grievous loss in my own life, as if I am facing a lurking danger without the means to defend myself and those I love. For several days now I have been dealing with the elements of a deep grief. Although Canadians had no direct involvement in that election, we have had our own versions of that kind of meanness and danger to liberty. Even though the snake has had its head cut off here in Canada, the body of the snake still lives within our communities, in our families, and in truth, to some extent in each of our own selves too. That snake is just waiting to grow a new head. That must not happen here and I pray that all people of good faith in the USA will be strong enough to withstand the negative things that they face for at least the next 4 years and that the anger, fear and bigotry that elected him be diminished.

It is with these thoughts that I hiked into the forest this morning and offered smudge prayer at the center of the Sacred Hoop Trail. I prayed that the lives of millions that we remember today on November 11 not have been lost in vain; that the spirits of the dead come back to change our hearts and minds and help us to know more love and to banish the hatred that grows with fear.May we all come to see better days and find within ourselves the goodness and light that is needed to help heal so many lives.

A few months ago I purchased a SodaStream carbonator apparatus so that I can make my own carbonated drinks t home. I could not justify the ecological costs of the bottled / canned soda industry and though that this was a reasonable thing to do. Today I am making my first batch of home-made ginger ale syrup with fresh ginger, lemon, lime, nutmeg, cardamom and sugar. The aromas that now permeate the house are wonderful and if you wish to sample some of it, you will need to arrange to visit with me here.

Our weather in November is what it should have been in October. The trails at Friendly Forest have now been cleared and are useable. It was a lot of work but I am happy that I was able to get it done so that I and neighbours can use them throughout the winter as well.

November 5, 2016 It has been a busy time. During the final weeks of September I was hurrying to complete pre-winter tasks around home and forest, while thinking that I would have some good time in October to do even more preparations. That was not to be. During the first week of October we got a very heavy and wet snow fall that did much damage in the forest and kept all of us busy trying to keep roads free and passable. Now , in early November, we are having warmer weather than at any time in October, and most of the October snow and ice has melted. Earlier today I was in the forest trying to cut away fallen trees and shrubs so that my trails might become passable for winter snow shoe treks.

In September and at the very beginning of October I took photos of the changing colours here in the forest, and I have selected some of them and put them on a special page of Autumn Images at Friendly Forest .

The surgery for my double hernia problem in early June seems to have been unsuccessful and I am able to perform many physical tasks that were totally off limits for nearly 7 months. It is very good to be active again even though I still have to be careful about what tasks I undertake. Being physically capable is essential to being able to live here with this forest land. I appreciate each day and each week and year that I have been gifted to be here.

When the snow came and when I was not shoveling and trying to keep road and yard clear, I turned my attention to shop work. I have not yet posted images of this recent work but will do so soon.

September 13, 2016 Although I have added a few product images to this web site I have not updated this page for a long time. For those actually checking this page for updates from Friendly Forest, I apologize.

My recovery from the double hernia surgery has been progressing and as I am able to undertake more and more physical tasks, there has been less time for indoor duties. I am still trying to be careful with what I attempt, but it is very good to be able to do so many things that were out of bounds for many months.

The seasonal changes bring with them a set of mandatory tasks that really cannot be delayed, but others are being relegated to a "do next year" list.

I did manage to do long-overdue trail work and as of a few days ago, all of the trails not under water, were open and walk able. The beaver keep dropping trees over certain paths but I can now also do some chainsaw work, so that is under control too. This Spring and Summer the forest has rebounded from two very hard years of forest tent caterpillar infestation and very damaging hail storms.

One effect of this was that the few apple trees that did survive the past two years, put forth a bumper crop of apples. The trees were overloaded but with good weather and no damage from deer or bears, I was able to harvest some good apples to make juice concentrate. I have even had enough to share some apples with friends.

One tree is a "Rescue" variety, and this year with no early frost, the apples are a rich colour and make a good juice.

Once picked and indoors I took out my juicer from Lee Valley to begin the steam extraction process.

 

While I am not a fan of this kind of indoor work, I am a fan of the finished product so I am willing to do the processing as well.

This summer there has not been a "resident" bear at Friendly Forest. And while that does not assure that there will not be some bear visits still to come, it has been rather nice not always being extra cautious about being out on the trails.

My four-footed companion is very territorial and goes crazy at any sign of intruders to her space. There have been several chipmunks and lots of squirrels to harass her into barking frenzies when she cannot get out to chase them. A few very un-afraid rabbits add to the situation. If I have Thrum on leash and she sees one of these intruders it takes a lot of strength to keep her under control. Of late a very attractive adult coyote has also been in the yard, and while it is very aware of Thrum barking at it from the airlock windows, it seems very unafraid. Since there have been reports of rabies in the area I am trying to watch it to see that its behaviours do not seem to pose an overly-familiar pattern.

The other evening an adult moose was feeding in the pond and when I saw the two ears and antlers "swimming" past I stepped onto the deck for a better view. However, it was getting dark and it was raining so I did not bother with a camera and just watched it swim to the far side and then browse in the shallows there. usually I just see the tracks on my trails. During winter browsing animals tend to use the trails to get around and the predators also seem to learn that this is a good place to look for prey. Some years ago a small group of Elk had winter bedding areas in Friendly forest, but usually I just find tracks of the Elk or Moose that just seem to be passing through of are around for a few weeks and then are not spotted again.

I do not consider the presence of coyotes a good thing. To me it signals that Wolves have not been in this area for a while. When they are using this as part of Wolf Territory, coyotes have to leave or are eliminated by the larger predators. However, the coyotes do tend to keep the raccoons away as well. The predator hierarchy is very clear,

This is an image of Thrum who is now about 2 1/2 years old.

She is an Airedale Terrier and a sweet and friendly dog when she pauses from being a terrorist.

July 14, 2016 In one week I need to be ready for our 263 Art Studio Tour and there are way too many things to get in place. I know that things will be ready but a feeling of low panic is setting in.

The good news for me is that my recovery from the early June surgery is progressing and I am able to undertake some tasks that were off limits even a few weeks ago. I am happy for the promise to help me set up that I got from my co-artist here at site 1 at Friendly Forest. I am also looking forward to seeing Miranda Henderson's new work.

My forest walking trails have become really overgrown this summer as I have not been able to do the trail work needed to keep things clear and walk able. I have usually used my clearing saw with both blade and whip attachments to do that work but the weight carried by the harness and the back and forth swinging motions needed to use this machine are still not a good idea. Recognizing the limitations of the recovery period and also the eventual decrease in capacity due to an aging body, I have wondered about the future of my walking trails. They are what allows access into the forest. Without the trails walking is much more like climbing over deadfall, pushing aside undergrowth or tripping over entangling hazelnut and rose bush stems. It can be done but it is a difficult undertaking and one that certainly distracts from seeing and enjoying the forest creatures. My original argument for undertaking the work to create the trails came from my desire to protect this natural system. For people to protect something requires us to value it. To value a forest we need to know it and to know it requires us to be able to experience it. That experience can not be gained from an external view from a roadside or through the windows of a passing car or even from a Google or Bing Map satellite image. You have to get into the forest for this, and so I needed to make the trails.

I also resolved to make the trails in a manner to reduce impact of the trails themselves. This year proves that I have done it in a good way. Left untended for a few more months, it might be difficult to even find the cleared trails with the forest encroaching or emerging on those trails.

Although my budget is still very strained, I have been exploring the possibility of purchasing a walk-behind brush mower. I have only heard about these machines in the past few months as I was wondering about a better way of trail maintenance. Then I found that a friend who recently acquired a forest acreage had also acquired a DR walk-behind power brush mower. It sounded exactly like what I needed . It is from an American company and with the low Canadian dollar and shipping costs, the price was really prohibitive. A Billy Goat company version of such a brush mower was available at a Prince Albert dealer but the cost before taxes was $4,100.00 !! And another unit that another dealer could bring in was going to cost a whopping $6,000 plus. Unless this was a money-making venture I just could not see these units being affordable at this time.

I have been talking to a DR Equipment dealer in Alberta about some older stock they have that might make it through a squeezed budget. We will see what might happen there.

My budget concerns need to be placed in the perspective of what values I hold and how I try to make decisions based on those values. How do I balance the needs of a friend or bother who might need food to feed his children or new roofing panels on a home devastated by flooding in a country on the other side of the earth, or the conservation needs of my forest creature companions and friends. I will pray about such decisions and that helps me sort through competing values. We are a part of a very large but interconnected system that is understood by many peoples and explained in many different cultural systems, but which speaks of the same truth. While we might just be a very small part of these large systems we are still a very important part, and we must accept the responsibility we hold in trust simply because we have been created to hold that small but significant place.

My First Nations spirituality explains this through the teachings of the Sacred Hoop and the Sacred Tree, in the understandings of how we walk the Red Road in a good way. My Christian heritage reminds me that I am a part of the Mystical Body of Christ, a branch on the vine , and other systems remind me of Gaia and the universal balances in which I have a critical role. We might just be one. We might just be here a short time. We might feel very powerless against tides and powers we confront, but our role is essential and worthy of our very best effort. What those efforts achieve may never be known by us in our time, and we will never be able to measure it. Nor should we try to measure it because that would be trying to take a measure on what is not able to be measured in the ways we know to make measurements. That is where an inner spiritual value needs to engage and merge with a trust and a vision that transcends where we are and what we are doing. That is where we need to acquire a degree of wisdom that should be coming to us in our mature years even if it has eluded us in earlier times.

Now, that was a long spin off from my decisions about whether or not I could afford to buy a brush mower. Perhaps if I talked less I would have less work still waiting for me to do!

June 19, 2016 Although we have a strong mosquito infestation right now, things are looking good on many fronts here at Friendly Forest. We have had very few of the Forest Tent Caterpillars and their larval stage is nearly over. As a result, the forest upper story and the understory are lush and green. The fruit shrubs have berries in good supply etc. But that also means that as song birds fledge, the squirrels that had missed those nests earlier, are now on a frantic hunt to kill and eat those young birds that did hatch. I have not seen a Pine Martin or weasel since last fall, so I do not see the natural predators on squirrels that would help keep a balance and allow some song birds to succeed. Nature's patterns are not the Walt Disney Movie perversions that so many of us grew up with in childhood..

My trails badly need to be trimmed but that will have to wait for a while, as does the grass growing in the yard areas. On June 7 I had my long-awaited double hernia surgery and I am still in recovery mode. The difficulties that I was having prior to the surgery really limited what I could do and now I needed to allow the desired scar tissue to grow into the supportive mesh that was inserted to repair the stomach muscle wall tears that constituted the hernias.

I had not had a hospital experience as patient since the mid 1970's, and I really noticed one change that made a huge difference to my earlier time; I was supplied with pre-warmed blankets as soon as I took off my street clothes, and even during the surgery itself, there was a fan with warm air directed at my upper body. What I remembered from the earlier experience was body-numbing cold and really uncomfortable chilling until I lost consciousness and then again in the recovery areas. Since I did not have a general anesthetic this time that warm air felt really good on the parts of my body that still had sensation. I regretted that I was not able to watch the actual surgery in a mirror and had to be satisfied by watching the monitor that the Anesthetist used to track my body function levels.

I need to express genuine appreciation for the considerate and professional care I received through the Prince Albert Co-operative Health Centre and at the Victoria Regional Hospital and to all staff.

Neighbours and friends have been very kind in offering to support me during my period of incapacity, and my youngest sister and her partner really solved a lot of logistical issues for me in taking care of Thrum, getting me to the hospital, getting me back and letting me recover at their home, and then getting me back to Friendly Forest. Thank you so much for great hospitality Carol, Dennis, Molly and Aspen for caring for two forest refugees.

In a short while it will be Canada Day 2016. This year it falls on a Friday, which makes it ideal for many who will be able to enjoy a long, unbroken weekend. In past years I have hosted a gathering here at Friendly Forest, and I think I will have the stamina to do something again this year. However, instead of hosting an afternoon or evening gathering, I have decided to go for an extended Canada Day breakfast so that early risers and those going off somewhere, as well as those who are just going to sleep in and make a lazy day of it can stop by for a breakfast and visit over coffee and pancakes with neighbours and friends. I look forward to having as many as possible accept my invitation to this gathering.

After all of this sorts out, my grass might get cut again and other tasks undertaken in shop and forest, but right now I am needing to be rather idle and let the lesson of last winter register better on my brain; even though the brain wants the body to do certain tasks, it is best to consult the body first and seek permission to follow up the mental command. I guess that is one of the lessons of living with a generally healthy but still aging body.

May 28, 2016 My battle with the resident beavers has taken a turn I did not expect. I have had my wild fire suppression system operational for about a month now, and have been using the pump, hoses and sprinkler heads on my buildings to keep things damp and humid around my buildings. I have been doing this now for about 18 or more years with no sign of protest from the beavers. Until a few nights ago that is. They decided that my output hose was crossing the path they wanted to use to access the few shrubs growing under my deck area, and instead of crawling over the hose, they chewed it through and pulled the ruptured ends aside.

I was not impressed. That length of hose costs close to $300.00. I had another length that I was able to replace it with to keep the system functional, but now I needed to find a way to avoid it happening again. After a series of imagined methods, I concluded that since a wire mesh dress on selected trees had thwarted the beaver's voracious appetites that might also work on my hoses. I still had some of the stucco wire mesh that I had used for the trees and I proceeded to make a series of wire tubes which I used to enclose the hoses near the pump and where the beaver had shown signs of activity. I did not want on the ground where grasses and shrubs could grow through the mesh and make a mess when it comes time to undo things i the fall, so I used some of the steel pipes and connectors that came from an old plastic shelter and I built a suspension system for the wire and hoses. I hope that this will keep the hoses safe. When I anthropomorphize the beaver I imagine them lusting after the delicious Aspen trees that are near the house and the pond and which look so good to a hungry beaver (and they are always hungry). They have been thwarted in the past, and know that the ugly human is responsible. Now, how to get some justice and revenge at the same time? That red and yellow hose is not very appetizing, but it belongs to that human and it is a bother to us. So ... !

I contacted the supplier of this fire equipment and asked about possible repair since the rupture was near one end of the long hose. No, they did not do that but there was a retired former employee living in Edmonton who might still do that sort of work. a call to his number brought no reply. Further contacts to a company in Prince Albert that supplies fire hoses and other equipment. No, they do not make such repairs and only supply new hose with the fittings already in place. A final call to a good friend who really does know about everything there is to know about this kind of equipment, and he too suggested there was no local option to repair such hoses, but that the hose was very strong and could have other uses as a recycled material. I had already found some such suggestions from my web searches. Those web searches also showed me the kind of equipment needed to remove expanding brass rings that secure the hose into the coupling ends. The required equipment was more expensive than new hoses and only avail able in the USA. Having dead-ended all of those options I am resigned to keeping the hose and finding ways to get some secondary value from the damaged hose. Of course, every time I will see that hose, I will think "fondly" of my beaver neighbours.

I have been struggling with an inguinal hernia since last winter and the day for the planned surgery is coming close. I need to have it repaired and then I will need to find a way to allow for a safe healing period. The risk, of course, will be that I want to do things physically that cut and sutured stomach wall tissues are not willing to tolerate. The forced cut back on my physical work even now before surgery is not an easy thing for my nature to accept. I am imagining myself as a very cranky old man in my declining years, miserable with everyone about everything because I am no longer able to have my body quickly accomplish what my mind wants it to do. That decline is already underway to some degree, but these past few months are probably a good lesson to me advising me to find new ways of find meaning and be "active" in new ways. I guess I will never be too old to learn new things, even things about my own human nature.

May 21 was full moon time and the time where I usually do my Inipi ceremonies. Just a few days before a complete fire ban was placed on the entire forest area and I had to cancel those plans. Instead I invited those who had planned to join with me in any case, to view a video about Hanblechyapi (Dreamkeeper) and do special prayer with the Chanupa followed by a good pot luck supper. It was a good day though lacking the intensity of the Inipi heat and ceremonies.

Lest I end this entry giving the appearance of a miserable Spring, I need to say, that on the contrary, this Spring has been early, warmer than normal, and until very recently, free of mosquitoes and the Forest Tent Caterpillar. The District of Lakeland contracted to have the area sprayed with BTK and the much better situation this year is likely a result of that intervention. I do not know how the trees would have survived a third year of massive defoliation. One of my apple trees gave up after the second year.

May 6, 2016 It is 06:00 and my recent morning routine is well under way. This morning the sun is largely under clouds and smoke from the massive wild fire at Fort Mc Murray Alberta. Although there was no rain there was dew on my car signaling at least some humidity improvement, perhaps from evaporation from the pond. The first aspen trees have opened their buds and are in early leaf, while the Aspen that always are on a one week delay are in blossom and will soon spread new leaves. This too may be contributing to the increased humidity.

After taking Thrum out for a short morning walk and letting her do her morning dumps, I put on boots and headed out to see how much of a mud and sticks dam the beaver had built across the one drainage channel from the pond. This morning it was not too complex and it yielded rather easily and the water flowed again. Then I went to the water pump I have installed near the pond. I primed the pump and started the motor and plan to let it bring water along my system to water down the areas around my buildings. I let it run about 60 minutes each morning to create a humid zones to offset the serious fire risk that exists throughout this forest region. I have invested in good equipment over the years and it would be negligent to not have it working properly at this time.

With the steel roofs that were installed here late last fall the risk to the buildings is reduced as flying fire brands are not as likely to set roofs on fire, but they would still start fires in t any fuel on the ground or in surrounding trees. I also have cement sidewalk or bare earth totally surrounding the house so that a creeping ground fire might be stopped by that barrier, but I do not have the same surrounding protection by my shop.

I hope that the real value of what I am doing is never put to the ultimate test, but I did have some increased confidence when I did a test run last Saturday and a good friend who has been a professional fire fighter for many years came to check out what I had. I also appreciated the lessons in how to handle a nozzle and hose to combat either fires along the ground or fire that was running up a tree. Even advice on how to quickly drain and repack fire hose was useful to an amateur.

I was also able to complete a series of 9 ceremonial rattles and customizing two memory boxes that will be picked up tomorrow by the customer.

Our 263 Art Studio Tour project is moving forward with 12 confirmed artists participating, the brochures and posters printed and the road signs in hand. Over the past weekend I spent many hours updating our web site and learning a lesson tat the same time; we had given May 1 as the deadline to confirm Artist participation, but since we had heard from all group members, I felt safe in going ahead in doing the web site updates. My partner in this venture had done a great job with the brochures and poster and we seemed set to go. However, at the last minute we got a call that a member was back in. We had to redo all of the previous work to make the accommodations.

Sunday will be Mothers' Day and at our Church all of the congregation will be treated to a pancake breakfast , this time prepared by men of the parish. My contribution will be to make pancakes for about 130 people. Another parishioner will supply the other half. Perhaps foolishly, we decided to make them from scratch and not from a commercial mix. I did a pre-mix of the dry ingredients but will be using about 50 eggs and 12 liters of milk and then stand over my griddle for most of Sunday morning to fry the pancakes. I did a test batch and do feel that the flavour is better than the commercial mixes.

The unusual early warm weather we have had has lured me into purchasing some bedding plants and planting them in my restored greenhouse. In early April I was able to remove the old, hail-damaged roofing materials and rebuild a support structure and install SunTuff panels on the 16 X 20 foot roof. It seems to be working well and daily I need to use my exhaust fans to keep the temperature at a good level. I am not under the illusion that we will not still get cold weather and even a lot of snow. If that does happen the forest plants will be really damaged as they are now coming into bloom and full leaf. It is a most unusual spring time this year on many fronts.

I am still waiting for a date to repair a hernia injury I acquired last winter. It is really limiting my activities this spring, and is likely to also curtail some summer plans that involved some heavy lifting etc. Although I have always understood intellectually, the dangers of heavy lifting, I just never considered it happening to me. It was in early December 2015 and I was cutting some b beaver-felled trees that stretched over some water. I waited for the ice to form and then cut the large aspen into 26 inch lengths, with each section being about 100 pounds or more. It was wile dragging and heaving these logs that I did the injury. And once torn, the muscle wall was not going to repair itself. Some fairly difficult and heavy work this winter and spring have not helped either. Some lessons in life we learn when it is too late to prevent an issue.

March 26, 2016 Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. I have been preparing to receive dinner guests here at Friendly Forest. We will eat well and since I had a few last minute cancellations from my guest list, I imagine there will be left-over food as well. Even after many years of making food for guests I am notoriously poor at estimating correct amounts to prepare, and I always have extra to hand out as take-home doggy packages or just to be shared by me and Thrum. It is an experience that is actually quite rare in a world where poverty and hunger are the normal experience of most of my brothers and sisters.

However, if I had any illusion that I was accumulating excess wealth, Revenue Canada will quickly relieve me of that problem when I fill out my tax forms in April.

April 4 will be our Provincial Election and I am saddened to see that the Green Party was unable to field a candidate in my area. However my disappointment is not so great that I would have volunteered to be a candidate myself. I was the candidate back in 2003. It was an interesting experience, and for the most part, enjoyable. I had the freedom of knowing that I would not be elected and that my running for election was the first time any Green Party candidate had ever appeared in this area. At the end of that effort I made it known that I would not be a candidate in the future. My argument to myself went like this: even though likelihood of winning was remote, if I was putting my name on a a ballot for election I needed to be ready to give four years of service to the members of the constituency. At that age I was grudgingly willing to make that kind of moral commitment. But thereafter, the proportion that 4 is of my remaining life span grows ever greater, and the proportion of sacrifice goes up in the same manner. Being able to live a full and interesting life here in Friendly Forest made leaving it for the life of an elected representative very unpalatable. Still, I do want others to make such an offer of sacrifice, and hope that those who do run are not in it for base motives.

Many people have low opinions of those in politics, and there are likely politicians we all know who have earned that base repute, but there are also others who have a desire to serve their community and to leave a better world for future generations. I applaud and respect them. While not all are suited to run as candidates, many other citizens should be ready to be engaged in the political process in other ways. I have always followed my own definition of "Politics" as the entire process of decision-making in a community. It involves being informed, having evaluations of issues, taking positions and engaging with others to further what we deem to be the proper course of action. In larger societies that process can become quite complex and the connection between the final decision and the first steps, quite remote and a long time down the road. Yet, it is the presence of a healthy process that will allow a community to respond quickly as well when crises arise. It is when we lack the practice of participation that demagogues arise and decisions are made to serve the few rather than the many.

Canadians recently were part of a Federal Election process, and the long campaign revealed some really dark sides of the Canadian society. It seemed as if the vile and base attitudes of some that normally reside in shadows and would be expressed only in dark alleys, suddenly were being invited to be expressed in the middle of the day and in the middle of our main streets. I found my email in box flooded with messages and stories that spewed hatred for minorities, especially those from the middle east and of the Muslim faith. I wondered if any of those who were spreading this vile material even knew a person from that part of the world or a follower of Allah according to the Islamic faith. When the governing Party became an active participant in this fear-mongering, that seemed to give permission for the angry , resentful and hated-filled base characters of some to come out and grow.

Still, what we experienced here seems like a small version of what we see happening south of our International border. I can hope and pray that what seems to have happened here, that when the hate showed its ugly face, the majority of our Citizens rejected it as not acceptable to our values. I will hope that is will also be the case for our American Cousins.

The 263 Art Studio Tour for 2016 is gearing up and we are getting confirmations to participate. I have been updating the web site with information as I receive it. Brochures and new maps will be completed when we have final confirmation of participation on May 1. Check us out by going to: http://www.263artstudiotour.ca or clicking on this image of our logo:

February 29, 2016 This is an opportunity that only happens every four years, so I had to post a few comments.

Here is a visual of what this morning's weather looks like. I had not looked at the thermometer when I went out with Thrum for our morning walk. She wanted back in and was hopping on three legs within a few hundred meters so we went back into a warm house.

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Last week the weather was much nicer and I took advantage of that to work in the shop. When it is warmer I have to use less energy to keep my work space warm as is required for glue to bond and cure properly. My supply of cremation urns was getting low and it was time to make a few more.

I have made five new units, two in cherry wood, two in black walnut and one in oak. Earlier I had made two boards to protect the ends of my two love seat units of my Palliser sectional sofa set. They had the steel clips to attach them but at times I want to have them separated. Unfortunately the then-exposed ends only had a fabric cover and I wanted to have a wood end cap to protect things. I finally was able to obtain additional clips so I could make the board protectors in a way that they could be removed easily. I used oak wood and decided to try an ebonizing process. I had read about this but had never tried it before. Oak, walnut and cherry woods were said to be good candidates for his process because of high tannic acid content in these woods. To make the solution I took fine steel wool and put it into a jar of household vinegar to produce an iron acetate solution. I brushed this over the oak and it worked, turning the wood into a deep and rich black colour . When the acetate solution had dried I sealed the wood with Danish Oil finish. While I normally dislike oak wood I do appreciate this ebonized version of the wood. It brought back memories of the black oak furnishings of St. John's University Church at Collegeville Minnesota, a building that was the work of world-renowned architect. Marcel Breuer.

Perhaps it was those good memories coming back or just an appreciation for the deep black of that wood, but I like the product. I will post images later when I have completed the finishing work. When I first read about this in an issue of Woodworking Magazine I thought I would like to try it for myself. Many years later, I am glad I did. Now there are many internet sources that one can check out for advice and demonstrations.

I also better understand the black marks from steel banding on woods like oak, cherry and walnut that are not as severe on other woods with lower tannic acid content. One day I will attempt a strong solution of tea to pre-treat a wood like Birch to see if that will add enough tannic acid to allow for a successful ebonizing process. Most sources I had checked out referred using special bark or other solutions to obtain the tannic acid.

 

January 24, 2016 Today is Full Moon for this month. Temperatures have moderated and I will be able to go out for hot rocks and not face the -30 º C weather we had earlier in the week.

After several weeks of working on my floor renovations and the busy period of December, I was able to spend time in my shop again. I constructed a functional canoe paddle from Birch wood, added the image of a jumping Pickerel, and finished the item. It will be donated to a group that works to support the community in Waskesiu. I also worked with a section of Aspen burl that was a cut-off from the vase I turned eafrlier in December. I was able to get a shallow plate form with incredible burl grain. I also added a special image to a cremation urn and made two additional smaller urns with the same image to meet the request of a family looking to honour a deceased mother. When I am asked to make a special urn for someone I approach the task with some trepidation as I know how important the object is as part of the whole grieving and response of a family at a time of special loss. I will add images as requested at no extra charge to the family. I usually recover my materials costs with such a sale but it does not come close to proper compensation for the special time required to finish the units. The first urn I made was for a friend who was not able to afford the costs of an urn from the Funeral Company. Other family members saw what I had made and that started a chain of referral requests. I have shown photos of some of the customized urns on this web site and that is often a point of reference for people looking for such a special item.

Yesterday marked the 12 year anniversary of a ceremony conducted in my home at which I was given my Dakota name; Candesna Cun Wakan Oksina, the Sacred Tree Hoop Boy names in translation. It also began my commitment in a special way to develop my prayer / spiritual life according to the cultural expressions of the Dakota / Lakota peoples. At the time my Mentor who assigned me the name said it was descriptive of the Spiritual Journey I had undertaken, and he also left me with instructions for additional practices to help build on that and to support that journey. Don has since gone to the other side, and most of the friends who came to pray with me that evening have moved to distant locations, that evening is still vividly in memory and so are the memories of the friends who came to support me that night. Thank you! I had learned some things before that ceremony and I have learned much more subsequently during the past 12 years, but I know even deeper the truth of the answer Don provided when I asked why he had named me "Boy" rather than "Man". He had said that on our spiritual journey, we are always beginners. We are always children and never reach the fullness of spiritual maturity. That can not happen for us in this lifetime.

January 17, 2016 Winter has arrived with wind chill temp equivalents of -43 and -39 degrees C the past two mornings.

After two weeks of daily effort on my floor project, over the past week I was able to relocate my cast iron stove to its proper location, purchase new stove pipe sections, rediscover a scaffold platform that I had forgotten about and had hidden behind other things in my shop, and assemble the new pipe to connect stove to chimney. Now a warm wood fire is taking the chill during these mid winter days.

While the floor tiles are not perfectly laid I am very pleased with the outcome of my efforts. As usual, NOW I know how to do a really good job. Even as old as I am, I can still learn new skills and insights.

My strategy for surviving this effort was to set a goal of doing as much work as a 40 pound bag of cement would allow me to do, be that cementing the Ditra underlayment or setting tiles.

Now, other neglected tasks need to be done, some in a hurry.

Thrum is growing a deep coat of fur and is able to tolerate outdoor cold much better, however the soles of her feet are not OK with the cold of packed snow areas. When chasing ball she will find deeper snow and drop there to chew at the ball or to just catch her breath. I am trying to impress on her that just standing and waiting for her to bring the ball back to me is not my idea of fun in the snow.

January 1, 2016 I am starting the new calendar year with some home repair / renovations. When I first built my home I was still working full time and could only find a few hours on weekends or in the evening to work on the house. It was over the Christmas break that I undertook to lay floor tiles. I had the wood stove going to warm up the house, but perhaps I did not get the floor really warm enough. I was installing vinyl asbestos tiles for a commercial durability flooring. I liked how they looked and I was able to add a design using two colours of tile. These served me well and were really easy to maintain.That was what I wanted. However, at about the 16 year stage I noticed that during the winter months tile corners lifted and adding some heat and pressure did not work very long. Each winter the problem grew more apparent while during the summer months the tiles lay flat again.

I assume that the dry winter air was also drying out the black mastic glue, and with reduced temperatures as well on the floor level, the adhesion was minimal. As well, the very dry air on one surface of the tiles would induce a curling effect, much like dampening just one side of a board or even a piece of paper, will cause that side to expand and curl over the drier side.

A few years ago I purchased porcelain tiles and had them professionally installed on the upper kitchen and dining space. They look great and are very easy to maintain. I watched the professional installer and using scraps and other tiles, I installed a floor in my airlock space. That has now survived two winters and summers and gave me the confidence that I could do a larger area. Last fall I made the purchase of materials and brought them home and now have overcome some reticence and my normal procrastination, to begin the task. I did not think my budget allowed for a professional installer. The area is much simpler than the upper area, with very few intrusions or extrusions to the floor space.

Dec 30, 2015 Entries for the calendar year 2015 have been archived.

I have also reset all page counters to zero. If you have visited the site earlier and find that there is no recorded count of your page visit, this is the reason. A reset to zero should make it easier for me to assess page traffic.

Happy New Year from Gerald at Friendly Forest!

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