Reading Farley Mowat

This summer, I’ve been on a bit of a reading spree. I’ve focused on books by one of my favourite authors Farley Mowat (1921-2014) who wrote 42 books (translated into over 26 languages) as a freelance writer over the span of 50 years. Farley Mowat was the most prolific writer in Canada and sold over 10 million books – so why wouldn’t I want to read some of his books that I’ve collected over the years! “Subjective non-fiction” and “cause-oriented” as Farley said of his writings – he was an environmental activist to be sure.

Reading FMwm

Reading The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be

Farley Mowat wrote books about animals (domesticated and wild) like caribou, owls, dogs, wolves, and whales (Owls in the Family; The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be; Never Cry Wolf; Sea of Slaughter; etc.) or books about vanishing people who we knew nothing about like the Inuit (People of the Deer; The Snow Walker; The Desperate People; No Man’s River; etc.); or books about disappearing ways of life as in the outport posts of Newfoundland (The Grey Seas Under; Bay of Spirits; The New Founde Land; etc.) ; or books which tell a tale about a place I’ve never been to like the arctic or Siberia (Walking on the Land; Sibir: My Discovery of Siberia; etc.) > stories unwritten until Farley Mowat wove words together to share his experiences with artistic flare.

I’ve accumulated a number of his books over the years and placed them lovingly on my ‘retirement’ shelf to read ‘later’. Well ‘later’ has come this summer and I’ve been reading all my Farley Mowat books like a person starving for sustenance!

WoFMwmI started off reading The World of Farley Mowat: A Selection from His Works which is a compilation of excerpts from some of his books. I read and read and read until my vision became blurred when I looked out the window! (*Note to self: get eyes examined.) I thought I’d read my favourite piece until I got to the next chapter about another book and I loved it just as much! If I have to pick, I think I liked the story of “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be” best. I was intensely interested in the story of the Inuit in “People of the Deer“, too. Farley Mowat is such an amazing writer! He captures the spirit of the setting and translates it with emotion. I laughed until I cried, literally, when I read his excerpt from “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float“. I don’t think Nellie or Taylor heard me sitting there all by myself howling with laughter or they would have thought I’d gone crazy!! I enjoyed this book immensely!

 

I took a break because I recalled seeing on my bookshelves, another book by Claire Mowat, Farley’s wife, called ‘The Outport People‘ about their years living in an isolated village in Newfoundland. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this volume.

VirungawmI scoured my bookshelves for FM book #2 and decided on “Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey“. This biography about the famous Gorilla researcher in Africa was a very compelling read and worth every moment of my life spent devouring it’s pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TDWWBwmSurprisingly, I found “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be” deep in the corner at the back of the top shelf of one of my bookcases. I was elated because I thought I didn’t have a copy anymore! THIS is the book I’m reading right now. It’s a small paperback so it won’t take me very long to read it. I also brought upstairs to read a copy of “Tundra“. These books were clearly visible on my bookshelves and I’m wondering what other volumes lie behind other books. I’m going to spend a few hours re-organizing some bookshelves to see what I’ve got……. and make room for more.

Every few years, we enjoy watching the movie made about Mowat’s book “Never Cry Wolf” as well. I want to add that I came across this amazing movie via the National Film Board about a young family who canoes the Farley route: Finding Farley https://www.nfb.ca/film/finding_farley/.

This morning I ordered “The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float; Owls in the Family; Born Naked, and Bay of Spirits from my local public library. I just HAVE to read as many of Farley Mowat’s books as possible!! I’m looking forward to the annual Book Fair in town at the end of August – I’ll be scouring the tables for more second-hand Farley Mowat books to buy! I just love reading books about the Canadian way of life – for good or for bad! I guess it’s my way of paying recognition to Canada’s 150th Birth day by learning more about my country and the people and places in it. I do believe that I’ll be reading Farley Mowat’s books for years to come……

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There’s a First Time for Everything!

 

It’s been a very wet and cool, even cold, spring. Last month, we had record amounts of rain with flooding around the area. We’ve had unseasonably below average temperatures barely in the teens at times.

Today, it’s raining again and barely 10C degrees with a forecast high of 14. And I did something that I’ve never done in June before: I made a fire in my cookstove to warm up the house! The wind is blowing at around 35 km/hr. keeping my Canadian flag whipping in the wind.

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Cookstove

 

So what better way to celebrate a cold and rainy day but to make a beef stew (recipe here). I had some grass-fed, local beef left over from Sunday’s roast and added cut-up chunks to the turnip, onion, carrots, and celery and let it simmer all afternoon. This adds to the heat from the dwindling fire in the cookstove, steaming up the windows. The smell is intoxicating. Potatoes are added about an hour before supper as well as the leftover homemade gravy.

 
Beef stew in June. Who’d of thunk!

Flag2WM

Backyard flag at the river

 

Spring Flood

It’s that time of year when the Rideau River’s ice is melting – it begins in the channel with a sliver of water peaking through. I always notice the melted ice in the channel first down by the bridge to town. Over the next few days, it slowly makes it’s way up to our place and beyond. Then usually the ice at the edge of the riverbank begins to melt and leaves a small ribbon of water. Huge ice flows shift from one side of the river to the other depending on which way the wind is blowing them.

My dock begins to rise with the water and bob in eager anticipation!

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2017

This year, it became cold and winter-like after spring ice break-up commenced and the whole river froze over again. We’ve had a bit more than the average total snowfall this winter (around 235 cms). It didn’t take long, though, for the thin ice in the middle channel to begin to thaw and water flowed once again.

A few weeks ago, it looked like this spring would be an average melt considering we had a very slow warm-up and the snow was melting a bit every day. Then the rain started. And it rained for several days. One day alone, we had 36 mm of rain added to the 30+ mm we had the day before (2.5+ inches).

The trouble with so much rain here on the river, is that the ground is still frozen and the river still has ice along the shoreline this year. When we get that much rain in the region, it all flows to the rivers and creeks. These waterways have no choice but to overflow. The Rideau Valley Conservation Authority issued a Flood Warning for our area a few days ago. The river is 2 meters (6.5+ feet) above normal level.

The other day when I woke up, the river’s banks had overflowed about 15 feet and the river was considerably higher – I could see my dock floating way above winter levels. My riverside flagpole and flag were gone, likely knocked over by the sheet of ice. The next day, the water had come a third of the way up my yard. A few hours later, it crept halfway up. It ended up 3/4 of the way up my yard.

We’ve always been spared from any river flood damage because our house was built on a one meter (3 feet) pad of earth. During the great 100 year flood of 1976, all the roads around our place were under water and our place stood out like an island (this was before we moved here in 1981). One old timer said Reeve Craig Road used to be called ‘Puddle Alley’ for obvious reasons.

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2008

In 2008, we had another ‘hundred year flood’ after a record-breaking winter snowfall – they might want to correct that phrase to reflect the fact that these floods are happening way more often than every 100 years. In 2014, it happened again. My grandkids thought it was great to canoe ‘on the grass’ in Gramma’s backyard!

My sump pump has been working overtime! What the heck is a sump pump you ask? Well, it’s a water pump inside a 3 foot pit in my basement where the ground water around my house flows into a perforated tube buried around the perimeter and drains into the sump pit. My basement has always been dry other than the time the sump pump failed to turn on…….

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Great Blue Heron on dock

The water has finally started to recede now! This is monumental in ‘flood warning’ mode. All the ice seems to be gone from ‘the long reach’, which is the term given to my neck of the woods (it’s the longest stretch between locks – read more here). This morning, I was treated to one of my top 5 sights: my ‘lake of shining waters’ where the water sparkles like a million diamonds in the sun. Oh, I just LOVE seeing this! (I wrote about it here) I watched a beaver sitting on a small ice flow as it made it’s way down the river; several Great Blue Herons flying along the shoreline likely looking for a nesting place; and lots of ducks.

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My Lake of Shining Waters

Spring has literally sprung!

It’s The Little Things

You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. There was never more truth as that phrase.
Recently I experienced losing some basic ‘necessities’ of life – well, not really necessary to live, like air and food. I’m very blessed to have been born in a country like Canada where basic necessities of life are taken for granted and provided. Even though half the year is cold and even covered in snow, I’m warm …….. most of the time. And that’s what brings me to this topic – heat.

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Last month, the heat went in my car. I don’t drive a fancy, late model SUV because my 26 year old Honda Civic is still chugging along and doing just fine. But sometimes it needs new parts. Like a thermostat. I knew it had to be the thermostat because I had some heat briefly but then as I drove along the highway, I froze. I couldn’t get it fixed right away because I had to go to my daughter’s house to take care of her and the children the week before Christmas. I just wore double pants, double wool socks, double sweaters, hat, mitts, scarf, winter boots, and a coat when I drove in the -25 C weather. You don’t know how much you appreciate heat in your car until it’s gone! My daughter Nellie and I drove into the city to a family get-together at Perry and Debbie’s when my sister-in-law Penny & brother-in-law Mike came up from Brantford, Ontario for a visit. We were frozen! Perry, bless his heart, put a piece of cardboard in front of the car’s radiator to help block the cold air on the drive home in the -30C degree night. Finally, after all the holidays, I took it to my mechanic to replace the thermostat: a $20 part and another $100 to put it in. It was worth every penny to be warm again when I drive in -30C degrees!! Such a little thing for such a huge impact!

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My car…….new

 

Hot water. In our developed society, we take hot water for granted. We simply turn on the tap and voila, hot water spews out! I have several other ways to make hot water in my home like a solar hot water system (which is currently covered with snow and taking a break) and a hot water reservoir on the side of my wood cookstove. But I depend on my electric hot water heater the most I think. Last week, we noticed that the hot water coming out of the tap only lasted for a few minutes before it started to turn cold. When my grandchildren and daughter Kristi were here for a week and a half, there was barely enough hot water for a very, very small bath with a couple inches of water. And only one of us could have a bath or shower at a time until more water heated up in 5 or 6 hours. Nellie even offered to heat up kettles and pots of water on the stove.

 

Stockings Hung

My wood cookstove

 

We knew that one the two heating elements in the 40 gallon electric hot water tank was likely broken – there is one element at the top and one at the bottom of the tank. Every few years, these elements break down because of our hard, sulfur well water and we know about it when we have a shower and run out of hot water half way through! You don’t know how much you miss instant hot water until you don’t have any. I went into the Canadian Tire store and picked up the right elements – there are various sizes and models (who knew a hot water heater was so complex!). We needed a 240 volt 3,000 watt element model with a screw in base. I found the old one on top of the hot water heater so I brought it with me to make sure I picked up the right one.

One big thing that I’m grateful for is that my son Darin always comes down any time I need him to help. Yesterday, the whole family came down and waited (and waited) while Darin did a not-so-quick change out of 3 of Nellie’s electrical plugs in her newly painted & furnished bedroom and tried to fix the hot water heater. Somehow, we didn’t have the appropriate tool to remove the old elements – we didn’t remember how we ever did this the last few times. So Darin and the family went into town and bought the special wrench and came back to replace the elements. Thanks Dar! I was elated when I turned on the tap an hour later and hot water streamed out!!

I’m forever grateful when one of my kids does something for me that’s no big deal for them but means a lot to me. For instance, bringing in a 40 lb. bag (or two) of wood pellets. Or carrying a box of firewood in from the woodshed. Or shoveling the freshly fallen snow away from the front mudroom door and garage. Or cleaning the bathroom.

It’s the little things that make life a bit more enjoyable rather than struggling.

Made In China

I went looking for a new toothbrush the other day. As with everything else I buy, I always read the label to see where it’s made. A simple toothbrush is no exception.

I prefer not to purchase anything made in China. Sadly, a lot of items are made in China these days – things from food to cosmetics to …… well, toothbrushes. How hard can it be to find a toothbrush made even in North America? Apparently, impossible, I found out. After spending my valuable time in three different stores reading the labels of every single toothbrush sold, I finally found one that was not made in China. It wasn’t made in North America either, but in Switzerland. I just shook my head at the thought of little children brushing their teeth with plastic toothbrushes made in China where the standards of food grade plastic are questionable and quite frankly, not up to Canadian expectations.

How are toothbrushes made in China actually made, I wonder? Mass production factories by people paid a fraction of a percent of what the toothbrush is sold for? ‘Slave labour’ by inmates? It’s an ethical thing for me I think.

I’m not ‘holier than thou’ because I do have products in my home that are made in China. Most of these products I bought second hand but some I purchased brand new. It’s not that I didn’t search for items made on this continent. They are just not manufactured here any longer. Factories closed years ago and production sent overseas.

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Car packed with electronics to be recycled

 

I remember when one of my sons loved to take one of those individual fruit cups to school in his lunch. His favourite was the Delmonte mixed fruit with extra cherries which was made in U.S.A..  I was shopping once and I happened to notice that they changed the packaging to a glossy cardboard so I studied it suspiciously. Yup, low and behold, it said “Made in China”! I refuse to buy food from China.

Other items can be made in China using raw materials from North America – then shipped back to us. Other times, products are made in China with materials produced or grown in China – body products, jewelry, food, and make-up come to mind. There have been ‘recalls’ or bans from our government on kid’s jewelry from China which contained unacceptable amounts of lead. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. How many more products are there that haven’t been tested or meet our country’s standards.

You CAN find products made in Canada or even the northern hemisphere but you HAVE to read labels. Reading labels has been a practice of mine for decades since I began reading food labels. I wouldn’t buy any food products with sugar as one of the first three ingredients. I looked for whole grain ingredients and less sugar – back in the day, ingredients were barely listed on products and with little detail. Hence, why I moved away from packaged products to homemade.

I’m not prejudice against Chinese people, honest.

All I can say, is that it’s a continual job to read labels every time I buy something even if it’s a product that I’ve bought for years. Well, at least I have a new toothbrush.

 

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Little Free Library

I love reading books. When I was 11 years old, my love of reading began when my sister Betty told me to read Nancy Drew mystery stories. The rest is history. I have shelves and shelves full of books – some that I’ve read, some that are my kids, and some on a shelf to read ‘in retirement’ (whenever that is). So when I first heard about Little Free Libraries, I was intrigued and excited!
Little Free Libraries is just like a library only a ‘borrower’ can keep the book if they want or return it or another. There are over 36,000 registered LFLs all over the world. I LOVE libraries – our little library in town is barely bigger than my house but I can get any book I want through the inter-library loan system. My kids love reading books too. I wanted to bring that experience to others…. but with a twist.
I wanted my Little Free Library at the river where I live. Yes, I wanted to be able to have books available to anyone using the Rideau River whether it be in a canoe, motor boat, seadoo, kayak, and even on skates or a skidoo in the winter. I had a plan.
My late husband Chris was always making things out of wood. With some leftover pieces of pine used to make a rocking horse for our granddaughter Kalia, he crafted a mailbox that looked like our house. Unfortunately, the post office replaced our individual mailboxes with a community mailbox so this project was placed on the top shelf, unfinished, in his workshop. Fast forward 12 years – I thought it would be PERFECT to re-purpose it for my Little Free Library project! I would just have to assemble all the other parts, like the base, and figure out how to make one side of the roof ‘hinged’ to open and get books out.

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I first sketched our replica house’s doors and windows on one side then dug out my paints. Luckily I had the right colours of blue for the house and white for trim. First I painted all the blue siding then the darker blue roof. Then I painstakingly painted the windows with grids and doors. All these steps took days to dry in between coats of paint.
I didn’t have the type of piano hinge I wanted for the roof section: I wanted the back half of the roof fixed and screwed in place (yes I actually found the drill and remembered to charge up the battery). But I wanted to put a piano hinge at the peak for the two sections of roof to join. However, I didn’t want to spend any money for a new one! I’m not cheap (okay maybe I’m frugal) but I wanted this project to be sustainable and I wanted to use the materials I had on hand. Heaven knows that my Chris NEVER threw anything out and there are drawers full of screws and washers and little hinges and you name it! That’s the first place I always look and usually I find it too.
I thought about that roof for a few weeks. I had to use something that would allow opening and closing AND would keep the contents inside dry….. Finally I figured out a solution: I used two swatches of indoor/outdoor carpet and secured them to the roof peak with bolts, washers, and nuts. I couldn’t use screws because they would stick out on the underside and possibly scratch someone. Then I caulked the peak joint with flexible caulking, along with all the seams inside my Little Free Library house.

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I found a piece of previously used wood for the base that was a bit bigger than the LFL house. I used wood glue to secure it and when that was dry, I screwed it to my LFL house. It was ready to go! I put it in my wheelbarrow (it was heavy) and took it down to our dock. I had purchased a shiny hand-held windmill and a couple of Canada flags to attach to the dock and act as an attractant. I created a sign, printed it at home, and laminated it then screwed it onto the dock post. My (unofficial) Little Free Library was screwed onto the end of my dock and filled with books for little kids, teenagers, and adults – I packed each book in a plastic zipper-loc seal bag just in case. It has rained since and the inside of the LFL has remained dry.
Now, I just have to dedicate some funds to register it officially ($54) – hopefully by the end of the summer. I want to take a LFL sign down to the provincial park just down the road and speak with the administrator about it. On weekends, they have ‘events’ for campers and a free nearby water-access library might be of interest to them. There is also the local newspaper and radio (both of which have an online presence) that I’m going to contact as well.

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The other day, I watched a child with their father using the “library on the water” and I knew I had done the right thing. And on the weekend, my granddaughter Livi ‘borrowed’ a few books as well.
As far as I know, my (unofficial) Little Free Library is the only water-access library in the world. And on a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot!

WMLFL

 

 

https://littlefreelibrary.org/

Nettle Tea

I love tea – yes, I’m a real ‘tea granny’. I also like iced tea. When I went to Florida a few years ago with some of my grown kids/grandkids, I learned that you had to ask for ‘hot tea’ is you did not want ice tea.

NettlesWM

 
I’ve already harvested my first batch of Stinging Nettle found growing wild around my yard near the pond, river, and (unfortunately) the playhouse, where a big bunch was leaning into the porch blocking the door just waiting to brush against bare skin, stinging it for hours. Nettle is one of those amazing plants that I love and dislike. I don’t like how the raw plant stings my skin but I just love the great, healthy tea that it makes.
I picked the leaves with heavy garden gloves on to avoid the sting. I actually cut off each leaf and put it in a bag closepinned to my pants. When I got back up to the house, I blew off each leaf and placed it in my dehydrator to dry overnight.

Drying Nettles

Nettles in the Dehydrator

The next morning it was done – shrunken, crisp and ready to crumble into a glass jar to store. But first I had to make a batch of nettle ice tea to keep in the fridge for the upcoming days of heat and humidity. I fill a large tea strainer with as much dried nettle as I can stuff in. Then I place it in a glass Mason jar and fill it with boiling water. It takes hours to cool before I put it in the fridge. I leave in the strainer for at least a day to get all the flavour and nutrients I can.
I love nettle ice tea sweetened with my own maple syrup that I made this spring and with a slice of frozen lemon (to keep it cold) – especially after I come in from working outdoors in the garden for a few hours. Usually after I’m done with a glass of nettle ice tea, I refill it with water, keeping the lemon to add a delicious tarty flavour.
I wrote about Nettles a few years ago if you want to read about it here  https://grammomsblog.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/nettles/ .

Nettle2WM

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