Bear with me!

There are some fears, rational or otherwise, that intrude into even the most pleasant of experiences. We’re back on the Bruce Trail again in our quest to complete the full, just under 1,000 kms, length. My hiking partner Cheryl and I are relishing it over 4 years… which is just another way of saying that we’re not speed hikers. It also means that this is our 3rd Spring with all the fantastic, re-emerging life that we get to witness. The rocky escarpment floor and naked deciduous trees, just before they sprout leaves, have a stark beauty all their own.

Where are we??

Now this is forested Ontario so that includes great big bears and Cheryl is always on the lookout for them. She declares every crevice or cave we pass probably houses one…

Another bear cave

We’ve been known to blow whistles, carry bells or just talk loudly so we don’t surprise a sleepy, hungry, just awakening bear along the way.

Here I’m descending yet another ladder but more importantly, can you see what that is peaking out of my backpack?

another ladder

 

Guess what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of you who guessed bear spray – full marks…Although apparently you have to get in really close and spray in the eyes for it to do any good so I think it just makes us feel better.

For the record, talking loudly and a lot, seems to be what we excel at and so far we haven’t met a bear!

We’ve seen interesting signs of other creatures from square shaped holes left by woodpeckers, to tree bark chewed by hungry winter deer.

Woodpecker holes

Teeth marks

We’ve seen bear scat and heard odd grunts, that didn’t come from either of us, but so far at least the trail has been bear free. But we know they’re there and, of course, now that we’re getting further north… Our heartfelt wish however, is to complete this trail without seeing a single one.

On a more serious note, our Province has inexplicably authorized a spring bear hunt for the first time since 1999. Even many hunters are opposed to killing bears at a time when they’re having cubs. This statement on the side of a shed I’ve passed for years, explains just how I feel about that idea!

Bear as hunter

Posted in Environment, Hiking, Humour, Photography, Thoughts, Walking | Tagged , , , , , | 59 Comments

Simple solutions and happy dances

This is my fault because I had my snow tyres removed, I thought as I watched the freezing rain through the window!

Iced trees

There is a savage beauty to this scary stuff and the way it coats everything and it can fell even the strongest tree. My thoughts usually turn to birds and making sure the feeder is topped up because it will be impossible for them to find food, until the ice thaws.

Icy seedheads

The power in our town went out for six hours but that was okay because it was night time and you could easily get cosy under the covers. We had a major storm in 2013 that took weeks to recover from, so this was not so bad I thought as we went to bed.

Ah yes, but things had changed in my life and while our power came back on by the following morning there was no power at the co-op barn…so no pump for the water well and 12 horses and 4 minis who had to stay in their stalls because it was treacherous underfoot and branches were falling everywhere…yikes!

door and ice

Iced tree

A water brigade was formed and we painstakingly brought water from all our homes and we made do but 36 hours later and no power yet in sight, things were looking a little bleak. It started to thaw and mid-day today I had the pleasure of letting the herd out. I wish I’d taken photos but I was too busy laughing as they each did their happy dances. Racing around, kicking up heels, rolling and bucking – joyful to be out in the world again.

And the water? Still no power but as I listened to the melt all around me, I grabbed all the buckets and lined them up under the disappearing icicles and happily watched them fill with water – a simple solution for sure but I can tell you it gave me a sense of enormous satisfaction.

bucket brigade

Posted in Environment, Horses, Life, Photography, Thoughts, Winter | Tagged , , | 50 Comments

Body heat and other winter thoughts

I can understand why medieval farmers slept with their animals – in the same building I mean…a thought that occurred to me quite often as I’ve been mucking out the stalls, hauling water and stuffing hay bags this winter. Let me tell you just how I got to be a stable hand.

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March 2nd, 2016

You may recall last fall I posted about how I had moved my boy Romy because our stable had become a co-operative venture and I was reluctant to take on barn work for 14 horses. Well if ever a non verbal creature could communicate his annoyance, Romy certainly left no doubt he was unhappy at the new place. He refused to be led, pushed me around, wouldn’t stand still to be groomed, was challenging when I was in the saddle and was just generally uncooperative and need it be added with a 1,000 lb animal – a little intimidating. Everyone in the new barn had advice usually involving showing him who’s boss with a crop or a nose chain – not my style at all.

Romy's hay bag

Stuffed with pride by your truly

Thinking about how happy he had been with his old herd I revised my opinion of manual labour and back we went to the co-operative barn. Most of the hard work is in winter and how long can that last? Romy immediately fell back in with his old crowd, including some nice mares, and his mellow old self returned.

Winter Romy

Happy again!

I think of his happiness at 7am when I look down at the temperature…not including windchill

Dashboard 1

0r when I’m out breaking the ice from the water trough because the heater can’t keep up.

Frozen trough

Keeping the water open

I think of him as I slip and slide up the manure pile with yet another wheelbarrow  full. Did I expect to be doing this in my retirement from a job that never involved physical labour? Not exactly but he’s happy and it’s cheaper and more fun than the gym and Ivy gets to come along too!

snowy Ivy

Oh yes, sleeping in the same building as livestock? At least their body heat usually keeps it above zero!

Posted in Horses, Humour, Life, Thoughts, Winter | Tagged , , , , , | 51 Comments

Pass the popcorn, please.

psiff_0

You know there are star ratings, thumbs up or down ratings and rotten tomatoes ratings to help you gauge how good a movie really is but after our Palm Springs International Film Festival vacation, I’ve added one more personal one.
The ‘how long does it take my hubby to nod off?‘rating!

psiff16_smallflatart (1)

The festival itself is a delight and being located in the mostly sunny desert town of Palm Springs, just down the highway from Hollywood, is a real kick. Along with two dear friends we poured over descriptions for the many films on offer. One of our friends is a Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) veteran and even she was impressed – just look at this schedule for only three of the days:

PSIFF schedule

The offerings included lots of young, enthusiastic new filmmakers and given the timing of this festival the Academy Award nominees for best foreign film were all here – what a choice we had.

So 15 films later – brilliant stories and documentaries from Iceland, Jordan, South Africa, Turkey, Estonia, Belgium, Israel to name a few we were hard pressed to pronounce on some of our favourites. We’ve already booked for next year!

Hubby? He only snoozed through one and I let him happily since it was a stinker. If you have time, take a look at some of these trailers, you won’t be sorry:

 

 

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California dreaming…of snow?

What nicer way to escape the Canadian cold than to attend the International Film Festival in Palm Springs – right? Sun, desert,warm weather, great films…or more like great films and a 4 year drought that seems to be breaking thanks to el Niño!

I’m happy enough for this parched part of the world, to hope that the rain pouring down is going to make a difference to a true ecological disaster – just wish we’d packed a raincoat. Even the 4.5 earthquake that shook us awake this morning has been eclipsed in the news by the rain in California.

Poolside chairs

The sun broke through for a while this morning and turned the raindrops into little diamonds on the poolside chairs and glistened on the hanging grapefruit. Great opportunity to finally go up the Palm Springs Tramway into the San Jancito Mountain State Park for a short hike.

As we bought our tickets we looked nervously at the sign in the lobby…

Tramway

We were truly mesmerized as we sped up the cables and the desert towns lay spread out on the valley floor below us …and snow appeared on the granite walls around us.

Tramway view down

Have I mentioned that we’re Canadian which for the most part means we’re pretty stoic about weather…

Snowy trees

Most of the time…

Brrr

We hung in for an hour but I think it was the gale force, howling winds that finally decided us to hop on the next tram down to the desert…

Mountain melt

Rain – you’ve got to love it and all the life it will bring back to California!

Mnt San Jacinto sign

Posted in Environment, Hiking, Humour, Photography, Thoughts, Travel, Winter | Tagged , , , , | 65 Comments

Vignettes from a strange December

As I watch joggers run by in short sleeves and the children ride past on their bikes it’s hard to reconcile these scenes with the fact it’s Christmas Eve here in Canada.

But my Mozambican family has their Christmas lights strung up so it must be true!

Mozambican family

Romy sends his best although neither he, nor his friends, can understand why they’re sloshing through mud on misty mornings.

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The geese continue to migrate although they seem in no rush and I’m sure some of them are contemplating a fowl coup against their leaders given how mild the ‘winter’ has been so far.

Migration 2015

Ivy however is happy no matter what as she desires ‘thrown stones more than the bones of elephants’ to paraphrase poet Dylan Thomas.

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Whatever you are celebrating I hope it brings you happiness and a little peace…if this keeps up the lawn will need cutting soon!

Posted in Environment, Horses, Life, Photography, Puzzles and Contradictions, Thoughts, Winter | 63 Comments

Remembering on the road

lest we forgetThis Rememberance day started appropriately gloomy with rain and fog as I hit the road. I was meeting my mother so we could join our dear friend Ceri for a catch-up lunch in Owen Sound. I traditionally attend Remembrance Day ceremonies, but given the distance we were all travelling to be together it couldn’t be helped.

My mother and I discussed the dispute between those of us that stick to the opening line of  Flanders Fields being ‘In Flanders Fields the poppies grow’ vs the recently popular version of ‘In Flanders Fields the poppies blow’. Since Canadian poet, physician and soldier John McRae died  in the last year of WW1, I guess we’ll never know if he had a preference.

In_Flanders_Fields_(1921)_page_1

As the sun came out and we passed through the small towns along the way we couldn’t help but notice the crowds gathering by their respective memorials. I felt a pang of regret but tuning into the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio station to listen to what was happening in Ottawa made us feel a little more connected to the ceremonies.

Since moving to a smaller town I’ve noticed that people are different in many ways. It was a few minutes before 11am as we passed through farm country that I observed some cars had started to pull over and then the large freight truck ahead of me lumbered over to the side of the road too. I suddenly realized what was happening, pulled over and joined this unlikely community remembrance. My mother, who had been a child in Britain in WW2, cried quietly beside me as the The Last Post began, we had some silent reflection, listened to reveille and minutes later we all pulled back onto the road and continued on our way. Extraordinary.

 

Posted in Life, Puzzles and Contradictions, Reunions, Thoughts | Tagged , , | 57 Comments