Monday, 29 March 2021

An Old School Blogging Meme.

 This  is a steal from The Department of Nance. It's an Old School Blogging meme, and it's easy fun. Here we go.

1.       What's something you're looking forward to doing once you get your vaccine or things open up after the pandemic is over?

Hugging my daughter and my granddaughter. I guess they will also have to have been jabbed and seasoned before this can happen.

I am amused by how we refer to the act of getting the vaccine. In North America we get ‘shot’. In the UK they get ‘jabbed’. That verb certainly has a different feel. I can’t help thinking about the doctor I had as a girl. He had delivered my mother and her sisters as a young doctor, and so he had been practicing at least 32 + 8 years when I remember going to him. And I think that as a young doctor he had purchased a set of hypodermic needles and, as happened in those days, he sterilized and reused them. When I was his patient, it is my firmly held belief that he was still using the same needles to give shots and that they had probably never been sharpened. Oh, ouch!

2.       What simple thing made you happy recently?

We have a robin. He is not happy, but he is here.

What was your favourite subject and worst subject in school?

English, of course. But I always took as much math as I could because I could get high marks in it and bring up my average. Worst? Um, your choice of physics or chemistry.

4.       Which of your blogposts is your favourite?

This one. It is heartfelt. Little Stuff’s Tea Party would be a close second, I guess. Little Stuff is now about to graduate from High School and attend a prestigious university on scholarship. Sigh.

5.       Coffee or Tea? Beer or Wine? Hard stuff?

Coffee. Lots. Black. Strong. If it is a hot summer day, beer. Cold. Very cold. Hard stuff. No. But JG and friend hold a Scotch and Stock Market evening from time to time and I like the way the Scotch smells. Oh, and it has to be single malt, just as a passing comment. 

6.       What movie, if you happen upon it while channel surfing, will you always stop and watch?

I do not channel surf. I do not know how to run JG’s complicated system. (Up to four remotes, given what he has selected.) If I could access the TV without help, probably TLOTR.

7.       When shoe shopping, what's your biggest problem?

Buying sandals with covered toes. I have the world’s ugliest toenails. They cannot be seen in public.

8.       Ice cream cone or cupcake?

It has to be a cupcake if both are available. An iced cupcake, thus not a dry one.  If not, I will take whatever you give me with sugar in it, except coffee.

9.       What have you learned about yourself during this pandemic?

It has been forcibly brought home to me that I am not as nice a person as I would like to be. The shutdown of my activities has left me restless and depressed. I lose my temper when I should not, lack the willpower to do the things I should be doing and am not supporting my friends and family to the extent that I could and should. It is all very well to say that we should be giving ourselves a break during this crisis, but there are limits. I think I have exceeded them.

10.   Does your family think you're the eccentric one?

No. Just a bit crazy.

That wraps it up. 

° yahoo.

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Shot

 We made the one hour drive to Smiths Falls to our designated vaccine centre and JG got his first dose, he being in the over 80 cohort. Except for having to make the drive, it went smoothly and he was in, shot, did his wait and was out in a little over half an hour. He said he had to give his name a lot of times, but that the operation seemed to be running well.

I got registered for my first shot - same location - also very smoothly. Went on line at 8:05 am on the first day I was eligible, lied and said I was 80+ as required (no one seems to have changed that piece), was put into a queue and watched a little running man for about 20 minutes or so, was put onto the site, entered my data, got a date and printed the receipt, all in time for breakfast before 9:00 am. Except for the lack of clarity in the eligibility section, it was easy and faster than I had expected. In fact, what I did expect was an endless circle on my screen while I sat on hold, hungry, for most of the morning. So the running man was a nice surprise and the fact that he did run, even nicer.

And so ... on my date, which is April 10th, we will spend another three hours trekking to Smiths Falls. However, we got a lunch out over it. Could be a lot worse.



Friday, 19 March 2021

Mixing it Up


There was a post up this morning in Facebook saying, essentially, if you have Irish blood, watch this. It was a video of a young girl singing Danny Boy, very sweetly, with visuals of the Irish coast. I think of myself as about a quarter Irish, in a British Isles mongrel mix. My daughter gave me a gene search kit for Christmas a few years ago, and I came out about there. Peasant stock, obviously, looking at my big bones and square build. None of which is very relevant, except that I am white. Privilege from the word go.( I am also female. Discrimination from the word go, although in many respects covert and subtle. Subject of another rant some other time.)

If you are mixed race and it shows, the discrimination is neither covert nor subtle. It is right there in your face. If you want a picture of how a whole society handles mixed race, I direct you to the Benjamin January series that Barbara Hambly has written about pre Civil War New Orleans. The discrimination informs every plot and defines every character. It is also a superbly written and thought-out bunch of books. And I came away from reading some of those books questioning everything I thought I knew about prejudice.

I grew up in an integrated community, or so I thought. Windsor, Ontario, where I was raised, is across the river from Detroit, Michigan and was a landing place for Underground Railway escapees. The escaping slaves got to British controlled territory, were automatically free and safe, and stayed. So there was a good representation of blacks in the schools and in the city. Many of my classes in public school had black* kids in them. And the black kids were frequently mixed race and showed it in either feature or skin tone. This was normal for me. What I did not know was that the black community valued these evidences. When you think about it, that sucks. Most of the identified-as-black people with lighter skin tones, or straight, light-coloured hair or Caucasian features, have these attributes because they have a female ancestor(s) who were raped or coerced by white men. The resulting children were slaves like their mothers, but with mixed genes. And their heritage shows in their Canadian descendants.

* The polite term we used at the time was ‘Negro’. I know this is no longer acceptable. But I do not really understand what is. I don’t like African American because for me, an American is someone south of the border. And African North American does not work. So I use ‘black’, and I really hope you are not offended.

I have joined a Facebook group called ‘If you grew up in Windsor…’. A lot of people are posting school photos to this group and I am surprised at how few black kids show in the photos. When I look at my own high school yearbooks which are available on line (I threw out my own copies years ago), I can’t spot a girl I know was black by running my eye down the photos. Her skin tone is not different on the somewhat yellowed page. And when I look at other class photos, there are perhaps three or four with dark enough skin to catch my eye or with a big Afro. I am pretty sure there are more that I do not catch. But not enough to really show an integrated community. Not nearly enough.

My father had a friend who was black and a lawyer. I am pretty sure he was unusual and not invited to be a member of the local Golf and Country Club. My parents had no other black friends although they were not members of the Club either. My aunt was. She moved to a retirement complex in her eighties and was quite surprised and upset to find a neighbour of Chinese extraction. However, the neighbour was a hot Bridge player and pretty soon my aunt, another Bridge fiend, was on a first name basis with her and there were no more comments. Thus is prejudice overcome, she said with a somewhat rueful chuckle. The point being that my aunt’s acquaintance had previously all been white.

In my daughters’ schools and generation, the mix is there, obvious and taken for granted. Children in every class photo are a mix of colour and race. We were lucky there, I think, as our school was next to a fairly large area of what was called ‘low rent’ housing. When my daughter came home upset about a classmate whose parent could not afford to buy material for a sewing project, it was a valuable lesson for her. When she came home and told me she had torn up the application for the French Immersion program, it was a valuable lesson for me.

My point is, the race thing is improving. The fact that so many young people are demonstrating and marching and actually living the richness of an integrated life is heartening. In my childhood community, the stories that motivate them would have been suppressed. I envision to a world in which the majority of people are mixed. Married to one another and producing beautiful mixed children. Mixed together in schools, neighbourhoods and at work. Mixed together in all levels of government. And not as mixed up as I was as a kid.


Thursday, 11 March 2021

Making Maple Syrup

 

I wrote this article a few years ago and posted it, but on this warm and windy March day, I think it is worth repeating.


There have been several articles in both the local and national press lately saying that maple syrup is ‘Good For You’.  That it has antioxidants and other good stuff.  I knew that a long time ago because I was a maple syrup producer for over a quarter of a century and we used this kind of info to market the product. Here is some of the research: 

Maple Canada's pure maple syrup label - 'Maple Syrup contains significant amounts of potassium (35 mg/tbsp), calcium (21 mg/tbsp), small amounts of iron and phosphorus, and trace amounts of B-vitamins. Its sodium content is a low 2 mg/tbsp. Maple syrup can be declared a good source of 3 essential elements - calcium, iron and thiamine';
and

Wikipedia's entry which says 'Maple syrup has a number of nutritional benefits for humans. It is low in fructose compared to other popular sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup and agave syrup - extremely high percentage of fructose can be deleterious and can trigger fructose malabsorption, metabolic syndrome, hypertriglyceridemia, decreased glucose tolerance, hyperinsulinemia, and accelerated uric acid formation. Maple syrup is an excellent source of the trace mineral manganese, with 2 tbsp (13.33 grams) containing about 0.44mg or 22% of the FDA Daily Value (DV%) of 2 mg. It is also a good source of zinc with 2 tbs (13.33 grams) containing 0.55mg or 3.7% of the FDA Daily Value (DV%) of 15 mg.' 

 

I could keep on with this, but you get the picture.

 

Depending on whom you ask, sugar has 50 or 60 calories per tablespoon.  So does maple syrup.  It is, after all, sugar.  For some people it is an acquired taste - my son-in-law dislikes it, for instance.  But most people, given the chance, love it. My grandfather used to pour it on eggs; my father had a dish of prunes with maple syrup most days.  Both of them got through an imperial gallon (four litres and a bit) or more each year, single handed. However, the single, simplest reason people avoid it is that it costs a lot.  In our district, which produces a lot of Ontario's maple products, a two litre container sells for $38 and a cup of granulated maple sugar is $5.00.  That's right out of most people's comfort zone.  Especially when cane sugar and the syrup made from it are so cheap.

 

It was not always so. If you read Susanna Moodie's nineteenth century diary, 'Roughing It In The Bush', you will find her complaining bitterly about having to use maple sugar since she could not afford 'white'. The maple flavour spoiled the taste of her tea. White sugar was imported into Canada then and I think most of the expense was generated by transportation.  Moodie lived a long way from the lakes that provided the only easy way of moving around Upper Canada and even then the sugar had to come by ship from, I think, the West Indies.  Maple sugar, on the other hand, could be had by drilling holes in hard maple trees, collecting the sap and boiling and boiling and boiling the water out.  

 

Sap has, if you're lucky, three percent sugar.  Syrup has sixty-six percent sugar.  That's a lot of water to boil away.  But wood was free, except for labour, and the only expense in creating maple syrup back then was the cost of big iron kettles.

 And time and labour, of course.  Using kettles over an open fire, you moved the condensing sap from kettle to kettle, kept the fire burning hot, and skimmed constantly.  Several gallons a day would be a good haul and you would have to stand over the kettles constantly.  Labour intensive, for sure. Photo credit,

 

Throughout the twentieth century, techniques for making maple syrup improved, as did those for making cane sugar.  The cost of importing the cane sugar also dropped precipitously.  Even with purpose-built evaporators for maple sap, reverse osmosis techniques for refining sap and plastic tubing collection, however, the labour required to make maple syrup kept the prices high (and the equipment costs rose with the new techniques).  When producers switched from wood fired evaporators to oil fired, the price of fuel added to the cost.  And when the family sizes decreased, labour had to be hired, at North American prices.  Now even the huge maple bushes of ten thousand or more taps cannot compete with imported sugar; maple products have become a luxury. Even at the high prices presently current, maple producers are not making a lot of money.

 

This high cost requires that maple products be marketed as luxury goods.  And the talking points are many.  Maple is authentic, the marketers cry.  It tastes far better that the stuff put out by Aunt Jemima. Lately, with the surge of interest in local and naturally nutritious food, the push has been to market maple syrup as a healthy alternative to regular sugar as well as the connoisseur's choice. Thus the news releases dropping nutritional information, accompanied by advertisements singing the same tune.  I made a poster for a neighbour's sale tables that said, in part, 'In this world of processed products with their additives and such, Be sure to think of maple for that sweet, nutritious touch'.  Specious as all get out, but that's the marketing game.

 

There is a point to all of this. Along with a lot of other people, I think we in North America are poisoning ourselves with too much sugar.  If a family were to calculate what their yearly intake of white sugar would be, price the total cost, buy the amount of maple syrup that amount of money would bring them, and then use only that amount of sugar, they would be a good bit healthier at the end of a year.

 

If they had access to a maple bush and made their own syrup, they would be a great deal more fit, too. I speak from personal experience

as my husband and I, with help, ran a small maple operation for over twenty-five years. It is hard, unrelenting labour to tap, boil and bottle maple syrup. If you are not slogging through heavy snow in the bush on snowshoes, you are heaving chunks of wood into the fire under the evaporator or anxiously measuring sugar content. We live in maple syrup country still and have neigbours who make and sell syrup and sugar. In fact, tomorrow they will be slogging through the bush making sure tonight’s high wind did not break branches and pull their tubing apart. Maple syrup is worth every penny you pay for it.

 

Monday, 1 March 2021

Disjointed, disgruntled and, therefore, full of Digressions.

 


I wrote this over several days - it is quite a ragbag of thoughts unfinished.

And then my darling daughter posted this ... the blossoms are apple.

It is February the sixteenth, a winter day in Lanark Highlands. And here we are, sheltering at home. Or, we are most of the time. As of the today we are due to come out of lockdown and go to ‘green’ status. The husband and I cheated however, by having friends in to dinner on Sunday and hosting our ED and her family on Monday. I do not feel the least guilty about this as we should have been allowed out of lockdown last week like the counties north and south of us. The fact that we are going to green status should make that clear.

 It was really nice to talk to someone face to face and share a meal. The weirdest thing about lockdown, for my part, seems to be the way time stretches and contracts. A morning can disappear while I do a Sudoku and read the papers. An afternoon can be absorbed by a self-indulgent nap. But January lasted forever. There were months and months of it, seemingly. With only a few very hurried trips to the pharmacy or grocery store to break it.

 All of Canada is waiting for vaccination and some of us are being very snarky about it. The orders that our government put in last fall may not be honoured and the federal government, specifically the Prime Minister, is being blamed for it, especially in the more ‘conservative’ press. That we are not at the front of the queue does not surprise me. We do not have any facility that can manufacture vaccines and the countries that do are quite overwhelmed. Not to mention, favouring home consumption first. Big surprise that. Not.

 Well, that was then. It is now the second last day of February and we were blessed (humph) today with a fine fall of nice new wet snow to go on top of the nice old deep snow. As they said in the days of sail, ‘No bottom with this line’. As one of my daughter’s friends posted who had tried to snowshoe in it, it was deep and very difficult to walk in. Their dog let them break trail. We had a dog that liked to ride on the back of our snowshoes. I feel for the syrup producers who are on the verge of tapping and will have to cope with this. Unless, of course, it sets up. Every snowshoer’s dream.

 Canada now has a third vaccine approved. Not that this will stop the cacophony of complaints about slow roll-out. I figure we are lucky to have vaccines at all and do not see that the date at which 75 and up (that’s me) will be on the roster is unreasonable at April 15th. There are a lot, a very great lot, of people in vulnerable positions, essential workers of all kinds, who need the shot a lot more than I do, including the harried young people stocking the grocery shelves and handing me my prescription drugs. I can wait. Even if we do cheat a bit.

 Next week I have an appointment to get my back assessed, a pool therapy class if the assessment is good, and book club and discussion group meetings that might take place in person – masked and distanced, but unZoomed. It would be nice to be looking forward to things staying that open, but I figure we have one more lock-down at least to go judging by what else is happening in the world. Now if I could look forward to a restaurant meal, that would be Nirvana.

We have ...this. Plus, since I snapped this shot from the front door without checking to see if the camera lens had opened fully, more snow. The bent tree on the far right is an apple tree. It does not have blossoms. 



 

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Snow Kidding

 The daughter in Pakistan sent an email yesterday saying that she missed the snow. Yeah. I had to drive to our shopping town yesterday and it was an, um, interesting drive as the weather was doing one of those things it does in Eastern Ontario in February. Cloud, snow, wet and clingy, wind, sky clearing, more wind, cloud arriving, more snow, and repeat. So, I slithered, breathing through my mouth, part of the time and stepped cheerfully along in the sun for the rest of the time. We have snow. We have almost all of the snow that the snow gods have dumped on us for the last month. 

I have a blogging buddy called Nance, who just put up a post about shovelling. She may need counselling soon. Oh, Nance, if you want to do some shovelling up here, feel free to pack the scraper as well because there are spots where it will be needed.

I just took some photos from our porches. Our unshovelled porches. YD, feel free to admire as you sit in your garden where, I imagine, you have flowers. 

Tomorrow we have a fine young man with a strong back hired to shovel the roof. 

This is showing the laneway out to the road. 
Laneway behind the house. 
The field. Under that layer of snow is my rock garden. The bit of blue on the far right side is a tarp covering JG's woodpile for next year.


Friday, 5 February 2021

To sport with Amaryllis in the window



 And two more blooms to come. She is a thing of beauty and a joy for the next few days at least.