Tuesday, 13 October 2020

A story of Two Trees

 We are having some most discouraging weather. Rain, more rain. Rain yesterday and rain tomorrow. In between the downpours, the sun comes out, or the moon shines down and the leaves glow or are outlined in silver light. Then darkness or gloom and sploosh. We are also, today, having gusty and occasionally really big puffs of wind. There are a few leaves being torn off the trees and those on the ground are being rearranged with amazing frequency. 

But really this post is about a fine autumn day, a perfect day really, when our two big maples that flanked the laneway at the road were felled and cut up. These were old trees, planted as we were told when the land was first opened up and farmed, and so probably over 150 years old. They were handsome trees until the big ice storm in 1998 did a lot of damage to them. They were also, by reason of their location, ‘open grown’, that is, branchy and bushy. And there was a lot of rot in the multiple stems. A breakage on either side could easily block our egress to the road and, worst case, trap us in bad weather. It was decided that they had to go.

And so, in warm autumn sun, I slung my camera around my neck and, carefully distancing myself from falling branches, documented the cutting out party. 

This is the left hand tree, as you face the road, showing trunk and multiple stems.

There was no way JG was doing this himself, and so we hired a tree removal company who arrived with an oversized truck and boom with bucket rig, and hauling a chipper. They also had an assortment of very, very large chainsaws that the young man in the bucket slung around as if they weighed nothing. 
The first order of operation was to take off the long limbs. 

The left side tree gets its first trim.

This done, larger stems were lopped off one by one.

A Very Large chainsaw.

As the branches and stems came down, they were picked up by the ground crew and fed into the chipper. The chips went into the truck. I assume that they will be made into something useful.

Here the right hand tree is all down. 

Here is the left side tree, roped and ready for the last cut that will bring down the big stems. The ground crew is sorting out and chipping the small stuff and leaving the bigger pieces to become firewood.

Both trees are down. It seems very open. But now the small trees that have been overshadowed by the big guys will have room and sun to grow. 

Our tractor is now in use as the usable wood is sorted and placed by the roadside for easy access. Since these branches and portions of trunk have almost all been cut to length and moved by our neighbours, who will split them for firewood. Not much will be wasted, as even the small branches will be chipped and become mulch on the forest floor.

Sunday, 19 July 2020

Fighting back

Here are two photos of the oak trees struggling to grow new sets of leaves. These were taken over a week ago (today is August 2nd) and the poor things are now in a bit better case. Unfortunately it is raining and looks to continue all day, so a current photo will have to await better weather. I thought I had posted these, but something went wrong. 
Apologies, and more to follow.

Monday, 6 July 2020


The date is July 8th. The tree is our cherished oak that sits just off the front deck of our house and provides my screen porch with afternoon shade. As of today, it is barren, eaten, ravaged by gypsy moth caterpillars.
They left one branch. Why, I do not know. I guess they just didn't notice it. While they were chomping, my husband tried spraying, both with insecticide and water, and he and our ED both ended up squashing the loathsome insects on the tree trunk as they crawled determinedly up it. We are hoping that it is not too late in the year for the tree to try to grow a new set of leaves.
One happy fellow as a result of this. The dominant hummingbirds sit on a vacant branch waiting for a junior to try to get a drink at the bird feeder nearby. He now has his choice of lurking spots and an dive path unimpeded by leaves.

The last time we had an infestation like this was, we think, in the mid 1980s. If you go outside under the trees, there is a rain, a pitter patter, of caterpillar poop. The joys of nature, eh.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Lawn Ornaments

Some people decorate their lawns and gardens with statues, gazebos, painted truck tires with flowers in the centre or motorcycles pasted with 'For Sale' signs. Our back field, which JG mows and I guess should qualify as a Very Large lawn, is decorated, this summer, by a doe. We see her (I am just guessing that it is just one her, but the behaviour is characteristic) almost every day. She checks out the feeding station, nibbles with more or less enthusiasm at the plants in what used to be my rock garden, and reclines here and there on the mown grass, ears twitching. She is very decorative.

The header photo shows her, with a lot of editing, wandering in the dusk. The editing was necessary because the light when I shot this was pretty poor and I got a blue cast on everything. It will do until I get a better one. Although, I do have a lot (erm, far too many) deer-on-the-grass photos. A disciplined photographer would purge.

Over the last week or so she has been joined, from time to time, by a turkey and twice by a small and somewhat nervous varying hare. Or two; the hare size varied. It is more than a bit distracting, actually, as I should be getting on with the housework instead of peering out the windows.

If one must self-isolate, it is surely a fine thing to be able to do so here.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Systemic Racism in Canada

Racism in Canada is a fact. No one is denying that or arguing about it with the possible exception of Rex Murphy. Link https://nationalpost.com/opinion/rex-murphy-canada-is-not-a-racist-country-despite-what-the-liberals-say. I believe that it is also a fact that open prejudice is less overt in Canada than it is in the United States. We are a politer people, for one thing. Instead of calling Michelle Obama ‘an ape in heels’, she gets the label ‘callipygian’. Conrad Black was the perp in this case and I have despised the man ever since I read that column. Link https://themsmysentiments.blogspot.com/2008/01/more-than-just.html

 I am white, middle class, well educated, in my 57th year of a solid marriage and damn lucky to be Canadian with roots here that go back some generations. I am also lucky to have grown up in a community that was, to an extent, mixed race. I went to school with black kids, socialized with black kids and was unsurprised that my parents socialized with black professionals. And I got my education about racial epithets in Grade 3, when I repeated a comment my teacher had made to a classmate, calling him ‘her little chocolate drop’, and the classmate pushed me down a set of stairs. I liked chocolate and I liked George. He neither apologised or explained, but his hurt was clear. The lesson stuck.

 All my life I have believed that all the kids of whatever race and religion got the same schooling in my home community, with the exception of the Catholics who had a separate school system. As they still do, in Ontario today. The black kids were more heavily represented in a couple of the high schools, but as far as I knew, got exactly the same courses and calibre of teachers. I was smug, in fact, about how my community handled race.

 After writing that, I wondered just how good my recollection was. I have been looking at photos from a Windsor History website and it hit me that almost all the photos, elementary and secondary, were of white kids only.  And so, I did a quick literature check. Guess what!  Link https://www.tvo.org/article/the-story-of-ontarios-last-segregated-black-school?fbclid=IwAR2D9ptY035ZrBaTvvDkuaQNDFgJG5vDMwH-7PILtdOUXEKG7K57J-pijZE. I also found a nicely structured timeline of blackhistory in my community. Descriptions of actions in the 1940’s and 1950’s reveal a mixed bag of prejudice and fight against prejudice. See https://www.publicboard.ca/Programs/K-12/africancanadians/Documents/Roads%20to%20Freedom%20Sec_Feb%202011.pdf 

 I left my city to go to university and have never lived there again. Looking back at that time (and the yearbooks) I realize that there were very few black students. At the time I was oblivious. I recall going to a movie with a black male classmate and being puzzled at the glare I received in the lobby from a friend. I was engaged to be married to a guy who was not at the university and if I thought anything, it was that she believed I should not be with another male.

 I tried to teach our daughters not to let race get in the way of friendship and fellowship. I probably overdid it. My younger daughter tells me that racial prejudice and epithets were a factor in her schooling. If she told me that at the time, I probably told her to ignore the perpetrators as not worthy of attention. If I thought anything, it was that these creeps were too few to matter. I followed with interest the efforts to overcome racism in the USA, but I was a young mother with money to earn, kids to raise and a house to manage, and it did not appear to me to be my fight. After all, I thought, overt prejudice is illegal in Canada and those experiencing it could have recourse to the courts. Police beating up African Americans for no reason? Only in the States. Even a stint on the city’s Board of Education did not teach me much. Kids of all races were in trouble for various reasons. A few years working in the Board’s Personnel department did not cause me to count the number of blacks in positions of responsibility either. We had black teachers. So, no problem.

 I am white, middle class, and, I have come to realize, a stupid person. Over the last few years, I have learned more and more about the ‘racialized’ experience. And it just makes me sick. The fact that I don’t think I contributed to it is pretty lame. By not noticing, yeah, I have been on the wrong side. What was I thinking? Well, that the LGTBQ community needed some support. That agism needed fixing. That women are second class citizens (both of these latter from personal experience). But that Canadian blacks were routinely being subjected to hassle and worse from the police just went under my radar. I read about what I assumed were isolated incidents and also assumed that this would be dealt with. That the First Nations people were also hassled and worse is something I knew from reading but also assumed that the assurances from our politicians that this was being remedied were true.

 What I have just had shoved down my throat is that we cannot trust the police force not to use force when it is not needed. That police seem to be allowed to act on biases without penalty. That quite a few of our institutions are systemically unfair and that nothing has been done to change them. And that all this has happened and is continuing to happen because people like me, and including me, have not been paying attention and have not been enforcing change.

 Demanding change is not the same as getting change. I learned this in a very minor political position, on a Board of Education in fact, where, once elected, I quickly found out that as an elected official I was doing the equivalent of riding on an elephant with no reins. If you whacked the animal hard enough with a goad, you could get a minor change in direction, but the minute you stopped whacking, the change stopped happening. Why did this occur? Because the majority of the people in positions of responsibility were content with things as they were. Most of them, like me I suppose, were people of good will who thought that the bad stuff was aberrant and could be dealt with case by case. Bullying in the school yard was normal, always had been, and was relatively innocuous and besides, the kids would grow out of it. Or toughen up. Or you put a program in place and your elected official bogs off, happy. And never stops back to ask if the program is working or still in effect, even.

 Someone should ask if the school yard bully has grown up to be a person who will kneel on someone’s neck for eight minutes, ignoring pleas for air. Has the kid who teased someone about skin colour turned into an adult who blocks access to medical care at a reasonable price for ‘those’ people because they don’t look after themselves and don’t deserve it? Have the ‘elite’ groups of middle school madness become adult NIMBYs? And, equally frightening, what are some kids learning at home and internalizing. Because, don’t believe that little kids are innocent and are taught bias. Kids are inherently biased, like chickens pecking the one that looks different, and have to be taught, carefully taught, that all people are equal. When they see adults literally getting away with murder, what do they learn?

I am convinced that any of this is not going to be changed by a top down fix. That there are laws on the books and a Charter of Rights is nice, but not good enough. The elephant just keeps clomping along and here we are still sawing at the reins. Any change will only begin when a majority of people demand it and keep demanding it. Starting with sorting out the police, ditching politicians with tin ears and being aware, on every street, in every office, classroom and store, of prejudice in all its many subtle and overt forms. And calling it out, then and there, as it happens. In fact, by stopping being stupid and complacent and enabling. Yes, all lives matter, but the priority for our ‘racialized’ brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, matters more.

Note to readers: I am trying out 'New Blogger' and not getting the links to work. I have therefore included the URLs.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Adding Insult to Injury

This happened yesterday, May 12th, in the middle of the afternoon.

After I spent the morning at the Emergency at Perth Hospital getting a diagnosis of arthritis in a swollen and painful wrist. The dominant hand, of course. My poor husband, who had to drive me to the hospital, spent the morning in the car as he was not allowed in, not being a patient. Patience was thus enforced. I will say for the fine young doctor in the Emergency room that I am back to being able to type today, after he prescribed for me and showed me an Xray of the wrist that he categorized as one of the worst cases of arthritis he had ever seen. 'You must have used it a lot' he said, cheerfully. 

Friday, 1 May 2020

May Day

There is a fine and well-tuned chorus of spring peepers this evening, in full throat for the first time this spring. Earlier, as they were warming up, they provided a back-up for a robin’s triumphant solo with all the grace notes and considerable volume. I was out on the porch a short while ago (9:00 pm ish) and the sky was still blue well after sunset and a bright star (probably a planet, in truth) had been hung in the branches of the oak tree. May 1st, and, yes, spring. Finally.

Lots of buds
In fact, my daffodils are finally deciding that they are going to bloom after all. We had a day yesterday of soft rain and the back field turned green and the tight, cold-rejecting buds in my bulb bed began to take notice. Today a lot of the minis are in bloom and the whole bed begins to look promising.

The oak tree is now the only tree in what I think of as the front of our house, even if the front door is on the other side. Very close to the screen porch there was a large and somewhat decrepit black cherry and in front of that a clump of birch that had never really recovered after the ice storm. To get the cherry to fall away from the house, JG had to cut the birch away. So, down it came, and the cherry followed. Poor guy has just finished raking up all the dead crunchy stuff that broke off when it was felled, but it did land exactly where he had planned for it to go. He hauled the trunk away while there was still snow on frozen ground and cut it up. Today he split some of it and remarked that there was a lot of rot in the lower trunk. Good thing he got it down. But it does change the view from the screen porch.

The two stumps, one centre and one just showing to the right of the oak trunk are the new cuts.
 Word Nanny wants me to put a comma after ‘But’ in the sentence above, but I am not going to do it. That is how I write and I WANT that to be two sentences. Word Nanny is just about as unreasonable as my Grade 13 English teacher sometimes. If I want to be colloquial, it is for a reason. Damn it! And I will swear if I want to. This is a blog, not an erudite essay. I still recall that teacher with a mixture of horror and amusement. Her name was McIntosh. We had Macbeth as our Shakespearean play and the woman hung a wooden knife from a light fixture when she read us the ‘Is that a dagger …” speech. Honest. She did. Ever after, we referred to her as Mac the Knife.

Um, where was I? Oh yes, May, spring, flowers and song. There will be a half moon along before very long. We have a small flock of turkeys wandering in and out of the back field, mostly to check out the feeding station to see if the deer left then any corn. The male is hopefully displaying and pacing and the females are paying him absolutely no attention whatsoever. Poor guy.

I took out the corn and deer ration to the feeding rock this afternoon and there was a doe who just stood close by and watched me set up the piles. As soon as I stepped away, four more, all does, simply materialized out of the bush. I had made five piles. Three deer trotted up and started eating. The fourth ignored her pile and chased the smallest of the five away from the rock. Mean. The deer are not quite as horrid to one another as the hummingbirds, but the fully adult does can be pretty ugly to the smaller ones.

I have to rummage through the storage room and find the hummer feeders asap. There is forsythia out in Perth, I am told, so the hummers will be along. No trillium yet. One mosquito in the kitchen at supper time. Ah, spring.