The North beckons

Sometimes you need to rediscover just how amazing Canada truly is and the natural magnificence of the Province of Ontario within it! On last Fall’s pandemic escape my friend Cheryl and I drove NW along the breathtaking shores of Lakes Huron and Superior…it seemed the roads and forests unfolded forever before us. The innumerable lakes never ending with great Gitchigumi clearly a freshwater sea. And the colours – angry grey waters, blazing Autumn splendour, pines evergreen, pink granite and brilliant blue skies.

It was such a feast for our senses so how could we not explore more of our great, wild backyard this fall again.

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Monsters or heroes?



Is it okay to enjoy an art exhibit even if you don’t quite get it…and then if the explanations given don’t seem to help illuminate anything? This is what I wondered as we strolled through an exhibit entitled ‘Monsters, Heroes and other extraordinary beings’ in the Costa Rican Gold Museum last week.

This question, the universal existential one was posed and I wondered excitedly, “could the answer be right here in Costa Rica at last?” Apparently not but the concept of Monsters and heroes converging intrigued me as displayed in this artists photo…








…and followed me into the rest of the permanent exhibit which is dedicated to pre-Colombian Costa Rican history.

The contradiction of monster within the hero (or visa versa?) seemed more appropriate to a lot of the exquisite indigenous art in the museum.



In the many excellent museums I’ve visited here over the years I’m always struck by how the exquisite artifacts have approximated dates which end suddenly around the 1500’s…after contact with the Spanish invaders or more precisely the ‘conquistadors’. I think it’s the first time I’ve realized that pre-Columbian, which refers only to latin america, actually means pre-Columbus. The time that followed saw near genocidal destruction of a culture by the looters of gold…Maybe the monsters or heroes question made much more sense among these artifacts.

Oh well, lots of candidates these days too for the monsters or heroes prize!


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Great escape

While there is a lot of talk these days about the benefits of being outside, as you get older there is less attraction to going out in frigid northern climes. So purely for health reasons – no really – hubby and I are taking a few weeks in comfortable Costa Rica. Being outside is no problem here and this warm golden sunset greeted us outside the plane window as we started our decent.

Add a couple of exotic looking birds like this Blue Grey Tanager

…and female Trogan

or this fuzzy camouflaged yellow moth

or exotic unidentified red flower…

and the snow and cold seems a distant memory for a while.

We’re not beach people so we tend to stick to the lush mountains or in this case, just behind our hotel, the active and smoking volcano Turrialba.

Throw in a coffee plantation horse tour with the macho horse wrangler Nelson and what could be better?

We ride past the first coffee roasting factory in the country, Aquiares, proudly sporting its Rainforest Alliance organic seal of approval.

Yes, the outdoors is great for the health, mental and physical, and the message on my tee shirt reflects my confidence!



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Pondering a ‘postless’ year

A number of my favourite bloggers have checked in to see where I’ve been and I’ve realized that a year has passed without a post. There is that phenomenon of time passing faster as you age but this is ridiculous! I’ve been pondering what happened after my last post that brought me to a  screeching halt…


…speaking of screeching halts my beloved did drive off the road shortly after that post and totalled my car…but all turned out for the best in the end with no one hurt and an undiagnosed ailment diagnosed and under the fabulous Canadian public health care system – treated… and of course car insurance!

Write off!

Along with my trail mate extraordinaire Cheryl, we commenced the final year of our 900 kms long Bruce Trail hike – the toughest part of the trail so far and we don’t think it’s because we’re 4 years older than when we started our trek.

Stunning Bruce Trail

Bruce Trail was difficult

Then my boy Romy had a terrible accident and the vet wasn’t sure he’d ever be sound again – heartbreaking to be sure.

Injured front tendon

But a move to a professional stable and icing and bandaging his leg three times a day, for three months seems to have done the trick.

I should be able to ride him again by May 2018. Much joy all around! If you should ever need horse bandaging lessons please give me a call – seems a shame to waste my new found talent.

Come the summer my granddaughters and I had our third annual vacation together – this time to New York City. A blast was had by all and these two are truly world class travellers – a blogworthy trip so why didn’t I…hmm, pondering continues.

Central Park fun

Broadway theatre

Then there was my grandson who commenced on his future soccer career and my youngest granddaughter who has turned into an adventurer par excellence – wonderful blogging material I’ll admit!By the Fall Cheryl and I were chugging champagne at the end of the Bruce Trail, getting ready for our celebratory party. You should have been there!

900 kms finished!

My mother turned 85 although you’ll see by the photo she’s still going strong! It’s not like I haven’t had anything to post about this year.

Mom’s 85th

I’ve given up trying to figure out why I didn’t blog – ‘no accidents in Vienna’ as my beloved says. Looking back over the year, I’d have liked to have recorded some of these events, I’ve enjoyed being back at the keyboard again and we’ll see what next year brings. Ivy doesn’t really care what I’m pondering anyway – she’s just pondering why the heck she has to wear this silly coat!












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Winter is tough on the old

We have among our herd a couple of seniors – Terry a fearless old trail blazing Morgan who looks at you with deep brown eyes that have seen it all. He has been beloved of his owner for more than 20 years and is a secret favourite of mine. His very presence can calm my boy Romy down when we’re out in a forest and a rock they have passed a hundred times suddenly looks suspicious. Those of you who know horses understand what inexplicable terror this may strike into their big hearts.

Fearless Terry

Fearless Terry

A grand old dame named Lily and a little he-monster called Pegliaro (Pegs for short) are two four legged friends I’ve had the honour to hang out with at our co-op barn. Lily is fully blind and Pegs has lost one of his eyes and they hang out together to share the one remaining good eye between them. Lily was the mainstay lesson horse every stable wants – she carefully looked after every young charge on her back for generations, until her eyesight failed and she was retired. It’s too dangerous for her to be with other full size horses now but she’s queen of the paddock with her 3 mini companions – Pegs being her shadow.

Lily and Pegs - Happy days

You get immersed in the more basic concerns of life while working around animals and I feel blessed to experience that at our communal barn. As you may have read here before Northern winters bring a lot of challenges to caring for horses and especially older ones like Terry and Lily.

Over the summer we do our best to fatten them up to prepare them for the cold months. They have pasture and hay on demand and as you can see Lily loves her hay! A thousand pound horse really should add a hundred to their weight to be ready for what’s ahead.

Lily loves her food

Try as we might though sometimes you can’t do enough. Terry left us Christmas Day although the vet and my friend, his heartbroken owner, did their best to keep him here. And Lily left us this week…her inflamed hooves and swollen joints wouldn’t carry her any longer. They both have lost their fight with winter and old age.

In a society that farms sentient animals like them for meat it may seem silly to some to be sentimental since they really have been among the more fortunate. But they worked with us, played with us, they’ve had their stories, their joys and challenges and a few of us will mourn the passing of these two sweet old creatures.


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Got snow? Make ice…

determination 2

I know it’s not as snappy as ‘got lemons, make lemonade’ but I thought there just had to be some equivalent catchy phrase as I watched these two determined young guys clearing skating space on the pond out back.


Making the best of a bad situation is something I’ve long admired in others and I hope I’ve practiced it myself on occasion. With the ‘twitter President’ about to be sworn in, sabres being rattled around the world and the climate getting angrier at us by the minute I think this may be a good theme for a motto for 2017.

That doesn’t let us off the hook however for rejecting outright whatever is happening and not trying to change it…hmm may need a motto change already to encompass the whole of the new year ahead! Suggestions gratefully accepted.

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Moral dilemma

As if life isn’t perplexing enough these days, here I was presented with a moral dilemma in my actual back yard! I love the Autumn season and besides the colours it’s the migration of birds that I often find spellbinding. The sound of hundreds of geese flying overhead can reduce me to tears as I rejoice in the wonder of this twice annual marvel.

I’m lucky enough to see a lot of these comings and goings in the parkland out of our back window and never tire of observing who’s visiting.

migrating gbh

Great Blue Herons, cormorants and mergansers all mingle with the more common geese and duck species.

migrating cormorant

For songbirds, I put out seed to help them along their way…and that’s where today’s dilemma began! With the snow driving sideways reminding us of the winter to come, I spied a visitor I hadn’t noticed before. With the wet, cold sleet swirling she looked a little sad for a moment…

Chilly falcon

But for just a moment and then her expression changed to something a little less pathetic. This Peregrine, whose name means traveler in Latin, noticed my bird feeder and came in for a closer look…

Spying on lunch

Now I was in fact, thrilled to see her since these magnificent birds of prey were nearly wiped out by DDT – one of the problems with being top of the food chain! They have enough problems in life since 70% of them don’t survive their 1st year because the little ones are favourite food themselves for eagles and owls.

Should I warn those gentle songbirds that they were being considered for lunch? Should I scare her out of the tree or leave well alone? She sat out there for a long time watching… I opted to let nature run it’s course and it seems she was just sheltering from the storm. The songbirds get to live another day.



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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

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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

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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.


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!

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