I am dismayed by the current, troubled relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China. In my view, Canada has long had a special-friendship relationship with China, one that could and should be regarded as unique among nations. Now is a good time to remember it. Continue reading
Sunset comes early in Hope Ness, Canada a week away from the winter solstice. If I don’t feed and walk the dogs before sunset it will soon be too dark. I admit, however remote, the prospect of running into some member or members of the local wildlife community concerns me. Is it possible, with the unseasonably mild weather in the past few days, one of the black bears living in the nearby woods may have postponed hibernation?
One of the larger members of the weasel family, fishers, are in this area. An “exceptional predator,” according to Canadian Geographic, they are one of the few animals to prey on porcupines, and a host of other small animals, including even baby deer. They have a frightening, chilling scream when aroused. Their range extends from coast to coast in the forests of Canada. It historically included here, in what used to be called the Saugeen or Indian Peninsula, more recently, the Bruce Peninsula. But fishers must have been hunted, trapped or run out of existence here, until they were introduced again years ago to control porcupine damage to local woodlots. It’s fair to say they’ve flourished.
So did coyotes — and the stray dog, coyote hybrid known locally as coydogs — for a long time. It was common here in Hope Ness up until a couple of years ago to hear coyotes yipping and howling in the nearby woods as they began their evening hunts. Lately the woods have been quiet. Coyotes have lately been heavily hunted, sometimes by the pick-up truckload, as nuisance animals known to attack livestock. But to virtual extinction? That can’t be good. They have their role to play in nature’s wildlife balance. Whether or not a pack of coyotes would take on an angry, aroused, fisher, I do not know. I just know the silence in the woods is ominous
My little cockapoo dog, the irrepressible Sophie, wouldn’t stand a chance against a fisher if one ever came that close on our evening walks; or, I daresay, coyotes. My big German shepherd, Buddy, would put up a good fight to defend her, but regardless of the likely outcome in his favour, I’d rather that didn’t happen.
Deer hunting season is over now, both regular rifle for a week in November, and musket for a week just passed, as well as bow. I heard a few shots fired fairly close by. I turned around and headed back to the farm with the dogs. So, that’s how we got into the habit of taking our evening walks through the relatively small window of opportunity between sunset and the darkening sky.
In the time it takes to get to my touchstone and back daylight has just about gone. Today was special though: unlike most days this time of year, it was at least partly sunny, rather than overcast. And then on the way home the sky above was a beautiful rose after sunset. But it was receding toward the western horizon, over beyond the woods fairly quickly.
I thought, maybe I should just let it go, enjoy the passing moment. But then I thought again, grabbed my camera off the kitchen table, went outside, and took that photo you see above, to share with you my cyber friends, wherever you may be in the world.
Buddy woke me up early this morning with barking that tells me he’s picked up on something around or near the farm. My thoughts were of critters from the woods come to feast on the compost pile in the garden closest to the house.
But an hour-or-so later after the ever-so-important, two cups of coffee and the morning feeding of the dogs, the tracks in the fresh snow near the end of the driveway where the road comes to a dead end, told me differently. Continue reading
Another cloudy day in late October with the front field to cultivate before it starts to rain, as forecast. I’m out beside Mr. Massey Too, checking his fluid levels before connecting the cultivator, when I get that feeling, you know, like somebody’s looking at me. So, I look up right where that feeling is coming from, just above the treetops of some tall spruce, and there it is, the sun – a faint light in the clouds, so faint that I can look right at it, face to face, as it were.
I get the sense the son wants to tell me something; so, I say, “What? What’s up? What’s on your mind?” Continue reading
With the sun now fallen below the equator, the mornings have come later with seeming haste over the past several weeks, as if anxious to move the season along toward winter.
It will come soon enough with all its challenges, I tell the sun, in hopes of seeing spring again. I cannot let go easily of this life. My spirit has not journeyed through the cosmos for God knows how long, and awakened to find myself alive on this little jewel of a planet, to welcome death; or, for that matter the end of the world. It is a gift, and to be alive for this brief moment, to be given the mind and body of a being set free to be joyful on the Earth is a wonderful miracle.
Like the children at the well, I could not contain myself. Maybe I was one of them, dancing around, coming closer, drawn by a certain delight we saw in the holy eyes, and the generous smile, in the empathy that made him one of us. No, he said, don’t chase them away, don’t diminish their joy in any way. Rather, be like them, and you will surely be in Paradise.
No, I am not one to let go of this life easily, or, God forbid, happily, in the name of supposed “end time” prophecy, the big lie of these terrible, lying times. Neither was he who wept in the garden at the imminent prospect of death. He loved life too, though he saw only too well what the future held, and tried to make another miracle to save the world.
“Oh, my dear friend,” I sometimes feel like crying out to the sky when the rain falls, “what have they done to you?”
Actually, it’s depressing to be alive in the last couple of years and wonder if the creeping madness of an unfolding tyranny can be stopped. Where are the “checks and balances?” How can so many people not tell right from wrong? How can people who should know better, who must have some knowledge of history, surely, continue to enable evil? Haven’t we been here before?
Sometimes, I think I’ll just stop watching the news. Just let it go. What can I do anyway, one small voice? I might be, probably would be, a lot happier. And there is something important to be said about going out into the world with wonderful happiness, like the children at the well.
But then I think that the best thing that could happen now, perhaps the only hope, is that as many voices as possible, millions and millions of them, are raised in unison, singing out another Ode to Joy for the sake of the world and life on Earth.
How well I remember my first sweet corn experience. I was a young boy of the inner city, invited out on a picnic by a country friend and his family. Two fresh-picked, unhusked cobs of sweet corn, were lifted from the embers of an outdoor fire. The husks were carefully and skillfully removed by my friend’s father, spread generously with butter, and presented to me on a plate as we sat at a picnic table. The sun was shining brightly on a midsummer afternoon. The kindly, attentive man showed me how to eat the corn, by picking the cob up at either end and first going down the rows with front teeth like a mower. He made it look like fun.
My first few bites were a revelation: I had never tasted anything so delicious. I looked up from the cob with wide-eyed, childish excitement. “This is GOOD!” I exclaimed, with all my heart. My friend’s father smiled broadly, as I also often do now myself these many years later, when someone bites into a cob of sweet corn I have proudly grown, just picked, and love to serve to others. To this day freshly-picked sweet corn, cooked just enough, remains my favourite food.
Back in those days, many decades ago, it was by far mostly yellow corn. Before that, white was the sweet corn of choice. Some years after my first corn experience the Ontario Seed Company (OSC) came up with a bicolour corn they called “peaches and cream.” Bicolour sweet corn soon took over the market. In my market-garden experience buyers often referred to all of it as “peaches and cream,” but there’s really only one by that name, still sold by OSC, while the many other varieties of bicolour corn go by other names. I started growing corn about 25 years ago. My favourite bicolour variety was Seneca Appaloosa. It helped me get a lot of rave reviews for my corn. Lots of people said it was the best they ever had. But Seneca Appaloosa suddenly became unavailable about 10 years ago. I’ve tried other varieties, but to my taste nothing was as good. The last few years I’ve gone back to the original peaches and cream, the old stand-by, I guess you might say.
The 2018 growing season was a challenging one for growing corn, and most other things. Spring came late, and the soil temperature was slow to warm up when it finally did arrive. Corn wants at least 21 Celsius. I took a chance and planted toward the end of May. But it got unseasonably cool for a while again and, because I use corn seed not treated with fungicide, the germination rate was poor. I planted again a week into June. But by that time a prolonged drought had set in, from the end of May to mid-August. I hand-watered the emerging corn from two, old dug wells, but still it struggled. There’s nothing like rain. An even later – second week of June — planting of a few rows of peaches and cream benefitted the most when the rains finally returned. And now, in mid-September a few more days of sun and heat are just what those rows needed to fully ripen.
Three rows of beautiful, sweet, corn-on-the-cob isn’t a bountiful crop. But it’s enough to share with friends and family, to satisfy my seasonal hunger for my favourite food, and to bring back fond memories. So, I rejoice.
Food for the soul as well as the body, that’s corn, for the boy in this old man.
Thanks to my son-in-law Scott for catching this classic, picking-corn-for-dinner moment at Cathedral Drive Farm, Hope Ness this past Sunday. Rembrandt would have known too what to do.
That’s my daughter Kathy, my youngest grandson Jacob, and my good friend, the most beautiful dog in the world, Buddy. And me too, looking for the best cobs of ripening corn.
Yes, the long spring-summer drought kept the corn down. But the rains came and in the end it was sweet.
See how lucky I am.
The second-floor window of my office in this old farm house at the end of a no-exit road overlooks a vegetable garden that’s proved to be way too big this season for this old guy. A prolonged drought that began in late May and only just ended didn’t help. Continue reading
I can’t bring myself to refer to the new Ontario government as “Progressive Conservative,” though technically that is the name of the party that won the June 7 election, and with 40.6 percent of the popular vote ended up with a large majority of seats in the provincial Legislature. Continue reading
In the morning I take some time to stand amid the buckwheat, fully in bloom now, and listen to the murmur of countless bees and other insect pollinators. The bumblebees seem to be most prevalent, certainly most visible. Where they go when they’re not hear gathering nectar from dense proliferation of white, buckwheat flowers, I don’t know. I let them be, no pun intended, but I think a lot about the great danger posed to them and their buzzing friends by the widespread use of the most recent type of human-made pesticides, neonicotinoids, or neonics for short. Continue reading