Sunday, April 19, 2015

helicopters in the garden / McCord Museum

The gate to the community garden is padlocked all winter and I was eager to see what had happened in my plot after the long season of snow. Three clumps of sorrel are already growing, though I'm told it's not as tasty if it isn't planted fresh each year. Guess I'll find out. The two rhubarb crowns I transplanted from our rhubarb patch in the Gaspé is coming along: red shoots and tightly curled leaves thrusting up in an obscene and wonderful rhubarby manner.

I knew I was going to have to deal with the maple helicopters. I'm not directly under a bank of trees but my plot lies in the direction of the wind. If all those seeds sprout, I'll have an 11' x 14' fledgling forest. Do you know what I mean by helicopters? They're the maple seeds that twirl when they fall from the tree.

After the winter on the ground they look like this:

Last year I thought they were like mulch and left them on the ground. Within weeks I had zillions of sprouts to pull out--the problem being that I'm such a newbie at gardening, I wasn't sure which was a maple tree sprout and which a leaf lettuce or a radish.
This year I thought I'd pick up all the helicopters, but after a couple of hours crouched under the sun, my lower back and knees grumbling curse words at me, I'd so-called cleaned less than half the garden. Now I'm debating whether I should just go with the flow. Do an experiment of survival of the fittest. What will I have by July? Maples or beets?

The other day I visited the McCord Museum where they have an exhibit of First Nations' identity as represented by clothing.
Afterwards I went upstairs to the Montreal exhibit and found it interesting to compare the moccasins (ca. 1900) I'd just seen with slippers worn by well-to-do Montrealers in 1860. The beaded design on the moccasins are symbols evoking sacred places. The designs on the slippers are... well, I suppose the embroidered hothouse blooms evoke sacred places as well, though I wonder if the wearer thought of that so specifically.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Manitoba in April

We went to Winnipeg for a week to visit with friends. The friends include four boys which gave R the opportunity to revisit boyhood.

The boys tumble about, but they also build things and paint.

I like how South America hangs off the edge: too large for the page but not forgotten.

I learned some pedagogical tricks in the event I ever need to tempt a 4-yr-old to get dressed. This actually worked. He was still in his pyjamas then he wasn't. I thought I was watching the whole time but didn't see when he slithered into his clothes, socks and underpants included.

We visited the Human Rights Museum and played interactive learning games, including how to make a soccer ball from crumpled newspaper, plastic bags and twine. Who needs Walmart? Especially in a world where plastic bags are ubiquitous. I watched the demonstrators show each boy how to make a soccer ball and each time waited for them to comment on the availability of plastic bags even in underdeveloped countries, but they didn't. Right, it was the Human Rights Museum. We need another museum for Environmental Disasters.

We made a trip to the Winnipeg Art Gallery as per the request of the third eldest boy who wanted to have a look at Inuit art, which we did. This was day #5 of our visit and my energy was starting to flag.

Here I made the mistake of asking if I could take a picture. 

Fort Whyte again next year? With everyone except me a head taller. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

translating words of abuse

The language with which we abuse people is harsh and unfair, but sometimes colourful as well.
Just now I'm looking at the German word Einfaltspinsel. Einfalt means naivete or simplicity. Push it a little and it means stupid. To break that down even more, a Falt is a fold or pleat, so Einfalt is a single fold or pleat.
A Pinsel is a brush. That makes an Einfaltspinsel a single-fold brush. Except brushes don't have folds, they have hairs, so an Einfaltspinsel is a single-hair brush.
Neat, eh? Who came up with that one? A master painter shouting at a hopeless apprentice? Though maybe the apprentice only had a different way of seeing and applying paint. The word first appeared in print in 1732.
In the dictionary, Einfaltspinsel translates as nitwit.

If you are planning a trip to a German-speaking country and packing a few words of abuse to toss around, I don't know how current Einfaltspinsel is. It can be found online if that's an indication.

The frog comes from my old copy of Grimms which I'm using for something else I'm writing. He's a happy frog, isn't he? Ready for spring as we all are in the unending cold that winter has been.

Back to work...

Monday, April 6, 2015

starlings helping sparrows?

The view from my study is onto the carved wooden cornices across the street. For a couple of years now I've noticed that sparrows have made a hole under the neighbour's roof. They fly in and out. I assume there's a nest.

Today I was distracted by a commotion. The sparrows were fluttering and screeching because a squirrel was running along the edge of roof and wanted to investigate their hole. At this time of year, there must be eggs. The sparrows flew at the squirrel who was only a bit bothered by their puny beaks and batting wings. Sparrows are noisy but not exactly military machines. A squirrel weighs approximately ten times as much as a sparrow. The squirrel dodged them easily, scurried under the lip of the roof and inside the hole.

Oy vey! Oy vey! The sparrows made such an uproar that more sparrows came to commiserate. They lamented the pillage and slaughter that must surely be happening. Individual sparrows kept charging the hole to berate the squirrel, though none of them dared to fly inside. They were very upset. If I could have helped I would. I don't love squirrels. They've torn my backyard to pieces, shredded my flowers, turned my bicycle seat to confetti. Vandals they are.

I was surprised when several starlings--the larger, darker birds--joined the sparrows in the tree. They, too, flew at the hole and scolded. They couldn't make the squirrel leave either.

Still: I hadn't expected that birds of a different feather would join forces.

I didn't keep watching to see what happened when the squirrel finally left the hole.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

mudding the walls

It's at this time of year that R and I usually escape to the Gaspé. I sit by the fire where I read, write and knit. I stare out at the trees and the frozen St. Lawrence. Stomp around outside on snowshoes.

I didn't go last week. R had almost finished putting up the drywall on the second floor. Next step was plastering. The plaster--more colloquially called mud--has to be mixed to the consistency of cake icing, then scraped across joints, into corners, along edges. To make a smooth, even coat, you have to swipe a great swathe of mud all at once. The work requires skill, muscles and finesse. A friend of ours had agreed to come wield his trowel.

I knew the house would get messy with the two men working and decided not to go along--and am glad I didn't when I heard the stories. Especially the one about the Atlantic winter having been so long and cold that, all along that stretch of coastline, the pipes to the wells froze so there was no running water. How did they manage? Pots of melted snow and jugs of water from the neighbour whose well was in her basement. She'd poured boiling water down the pipes so they didn't freeze.

When R bought the house in 2010, the upstairs walls were a patchwork of boards that had been covered with posters, drawings, messages and doodles.

In 2011 he and a friend (same good friend) gutted the upstairs.

Insulation and laths went up.

With the upstairs underway, he and I started work on the outside of the house. It took a while because we only visit the house 2 or 3 times a year and obviously don't want to spend all our time by the sea painting and sanding.

We didn't renovate the first floor ourselves. We had an amazing contractor--Bruno Thibeault of Sainte Anne des Monts--who knocked in larger windows, insulated the walls, moved the bathroom, replaced  the flooring, raised the kitchen counters from mid-thigh to hip level (people used to be shorter), installed a slow-burning wood stove and more.

At each visit R added a few more studs then a few more sheets of drywall to the upstairs.

Since the floor, which we decided to keep as is, was crooked, the edges of drywall didn't always match and I expected we'd end up with walls that had a few gaps and bumps.
So I'm very impressed with the pictures of the work done last week. Even the screw heads covered! Next time we'll be able to start painting.

Mudding: strange word for a process that makes for clean, smooth edges.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

ukuleles and biscuit clocks

I was in Toronto a couple of weekends ago and spent a day with my friend Randi who plays ukulele. She had a gig coming up and her uke was sick. Something to do with the tuning pegs.

I am not at all musical, but even I know where to find the tuning pegs on an instrument. Randi had called the amazing ukulele doctor who, like any good doctor, didn't want to give a diagnosis over the phone. She asked if would mind coming with her to the Twelfth Fret and off we went--and wow, were there ever instruments!

I wish you could hear the sound. There were several of these small rooms off the main aisle where different musicians were noodling and twanging strings. 
There were some younger people, but I noticed a wealth of grey and white hair.

There's Randi waiting for the doctor to look at her uke, but the woman with banjo was there first. The guy in the middle is just some guy with opinions. The women aren't listening. 
Here's the doctor.

I took closeups of his hands because I loved how he used his tools, but those pictures are blurry. He was moving so fast--though slowly, too, because we waited for a couple of hours for him to fix all that was wrong. Not just the tuning pegs. 
We left the store at one point to go have a coffee and ended up at the Viking Bakery--the only Icelandic bakery in Toronto. I'm pretty sure it's the only one because the Icelandic community in Toronto only numbers about 100. So the baker told us. Randi wondered why he'd decided to open a bakery at the Woodbine subway in Toronto. He said a woman who used to make wedding cakes had owned the bakery before him. I guess the rationale was that people in the area who used to come to the store for their wedding cakes might step in and have an Icelandic trapezoid. ??

He was friendly and if you find yourself far east in Toronto at the Woodbine subway, you should visit the Viking Bakery. One big drawing card would be the biscuit clock. 

We returned to the Twelfth Fret and waited for the Ukulele Doctor to finish.