Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Open Door

Madcap Mum and Eleutheros have been talking about culture, and it got me thinking. I tend to think of the people of this area as being too far removed from their European roots to retain much of their old-country culture, and too recently settled here (maybe six generations at most?) to have developed their own. But who am I to talk? I only grew up here, and only after age six, and I don't have any relatives who come from here at all.

Still, I've been thinking. It occurred to me that there is a certain stubborn streak that many of us share, a contrary determination to live here and to love it. We take delight in appreciating subtle beauties that others can't see for looking at. We agree that "mountains are nice, but they get in the way of the view." And we just love to talk about our 40-below weather, and the day-to-day activities that carry on in spite of it.

The topic of dangerous weather brings me to a trait that is well known, and yet probably diminishing among us. I call it the "open door." I believe it is found in many frontier cultures, and persists in some cultures that are not far removed from their frontier origins, either in time or in increased safety and security. It is an unwritten code that says, if a neighbour or a stranger comes to you out of a blizzard, your door is open to them. That basic rule of community survival spills over into all aspects of life, so that we have been known as friendly, helpful people.

Another thing: I've been told that Saskatchewan people are recognized world wide, in international-aid circles, as resourceful, effective, resilient volunteers. Whether we have some unique cultural basis for that, or whether it's just our predominantly rural agricultural background showing through, I don't know. Maybe it's partly our very lack of culture that makes us successful in an international context. Not having a strong framework of cultural codes that we rely on for comfort and identity, perhaps we adapt more readily when encountering a strong, strange code somewhere else. I'm speculating wildly here. As for myself personally, I'd say you'd have a very tough time getting me overseas in the first place, so I really have to wonder if I'd do much good there.

I was dismayed, last February, to read the following description of a culture. It was written by someone who grew up here. At the time, I recoiled, thinking, "Speak for yourself!" But on re-reading it, I can see some sad truth in it.
After all, no matter what our race, heritage and family history may be- the vast majority of those living in the west share the same culture. Culture isn't dressing up in a kilt once a year, or celebrating Ukranian Christmas. It's climbing in your Dodge Caravan, popping in a Red Hot Chili Peppers CD on the way to pick up the kids from hockey or soccer or band practice. It's heating up a frozen pizza and flipping the channels to find CNN or Jeopardy.
Just look at all the marketed values in there! A minivan, frozen pizza, TV - these aren't valued for their local usefulness, or their expression of a uniquely shared history. They're valued for their usefulness within a generalized cultural system. They're also valued by their manufacturers for their revenue-generating power, and that revenue is maintained by reinvesting some of it in advertising.

What it comes down to is this: we have a shifting, constantly reinvented culture that is delivered to us by marketers who just can't wait to make money off another fad. If there is anything innate to us about this culture, it is our willingness, indeed eagerness, to absorb the latest innovation. "The door is open. If you need some money to grow the economy, come on in and empty our pockets. It's the least we can do."

Very sad.

The Discovery of Global Warming

A little summer reading, for those moments when you feel like browsing but the blogs seem to be drowsing. I like Spencer Weart's personal note.

Monday, May 29, 2006

That Cultural Nerve

Madcap Mum has an interesting post (with a fascinating intense exchange in the comments), which brought to mind a song of mine. This song was inspired by a tense moment at a workplace workshop aimed at fostering intercultural understanding. One of the leaders told us all, in words I don't remember exactly, that we didn't have any roots here; our roots were back in Europe. I don't think he succeeded at creating any understanding at all.

No Place

You tell me that you
have no home.
My people
took it, long ago.
A thousand of us
till these fields
and leave no place
for you to go.

But you tell me that your
roots run deep
and that you belong to this land
as I never can.
And you tell me that my
spirit sleeps.
And it dreams of where it should be
far across the sea . . .

If that is true, I
have no home.
My people
left it, long ago.
A thousand others
till those fields
and leave no place
for me to go.

As the fields around us begin to blow
and the salt crust whitens where the land is low,
"Yes," you say, you could have told us so,
but of course we couldn't know,
with our roots across the ocean . . .

But as we talk here, our
children play.
See them share that dusty schoolyard
where the ground is hard.
Oh, oh, what will their
grandchildren say
when they seek a dwelling place
on this planet's face?

Will they tell their gods, "We
have no home.
Our people
took it, long ago.
They left us poisoned, desert fields.
A thousand years until they heal . . .

They left no place

for us to go.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Well, Billy-Boy...

. . . I don't know how that young thing does it in a cat's wink, but as for my cherry pie, I'd say (if I may say so myself): it's worth the wait.

No, I don't mean the three hours it took me to make it, once I got my mind made up to do it.

I mean the three decades that I've been old enough to bake a pie, and haven't done it.

Mom, thanks for the cherries, the pastry blender, and the excellent advice. Especially the part about how I could have had it done, instead of worrying about it. (By the way, I ate the first slice, to see how it turned out, and found a pit in my very first bite. But the rest - oh, those are good cherries, Mom.)

Was it my imagination, or was there a sudden little rush on cherry pie after that first farmer bought a piece of mine?

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Change at Twilight

I have to bake pies for an auction sale tomorrow. I've never baked a pie in my life. I called my Mom and arranged to borrow her pastry blender and use some of her frozen cherries. I said I'd drive out to the farm and pick them up. Then I delayed, and delayed, and she came to town and brought them to me. Still I stalled.

I showed up late for community band, and they had already written me off, assuming that I was baking. But I just figured I'll bake the pies in the morning, since I have to get up early anyway, to get Ruth on her way with the Cadets to Virden for gliding and an air show. Maybe my next post will be titled "I can bake a cherry pie!", and include a lovely picture. We can hope.

I got home from band, carried my instruments inside, and then walked back out into the deep twilight to put my bike and trailer away. My mind was churning with fruitless worry about what time I must get up, whether anyone was planning to give Ruth a ride to the air show, whether I should just buy some pies, whether I could count on finding pies for sale in the morning. As I paused outside the shed to unhitch the bike trailer, my eyes were drawn to the garden beyond. In the dim light, the image of the yin-yang leapt out at me, uncluttered by the ghost of the old garden that shows up in daylight as patches of browner sod and still-grassy tilled soil. My eyes followed the S-shape through the middle and then leapt out to the even dimmer land beyond.

In the brick ponds, a few late chorus frogs were singing yet - unable to admit defeat, I guess. All around the ponds, over that expanse of rough ground and long grass, fireflies flickered and floated like truly twinkling stars.

A Portrait of Me

At Summer at the Centre last year, we enjoyed everything from campfires with songs, skits, and games, to building a labyrinth, to lazy time with home-spa treatments and great food, to watersliding, golfing, hiking, and paddling. Through the week we also took turns at the computers, designing our own T-shirt transfers so that we could take home a wearable souvenir.

This was my design.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Yesterday I finished most of the direct seeding in the garden. Today I am staying indoors and watching the rain.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Another Edible Legume (? Updated)

"Mom, is it true that caragana flowers are poisonous?"

I had been wondering the same thing. Was it true, or was the warning I recalled from my childhood just a precautionary "might-be," or even just something somebody made up? My younger sister recalls some shockingly fanciful stuff that I reputedly declared to her as gospel, back when our age difference was more significant.

Ruth decided to go ahead and try one. She explained that she had seen kids eating them off the hedges as they walked down the street. "I'm not gonna die, Mom."

She announced that it tasted like a very sweet pea. She chewed a bit longer. "No, asparagus."

I didn't notice the asparagus aftertaste, but the first flavour burst is definitely sweet. According to the USDA Plants Profile for Caragana arborescens, under "Palatable Human," the answer is "no." No? Heck, if I was sure they wouldn't hurt me, I'd eat those flowers by the bowlful. The USDA Plants Profile also says, "Toxicity: None," but should I believe them?

When in doubt, check some more sources. That's my modus operandi. Sooner or later I usually find one that specifically addresses the conflicts among the others. Then it's a matter of deciding whose supporting evidence and arguments look more solid.

I must admit, though, I'm beginning to look more favourably on the direct experimentation technique. No ill effects so far...

I wonder, what are the chances of eating a flower with a stinging insect inside?

Ahem. Back to the research. Look what I found! Plants For a Future - a database of "Edible, medicinal and useful plants for a healthier world."

In the entry for Caragana arborescens, it says:
Reports that this plant contains toxins have not been substantiated[65]. The occurrence of cystine in the seeds is doubtful[65].
And furthermore, it suggests that the seeds can be cooked and used in spicy dishes (to compensate for their bland flavour), and the young seedpods can be cooked as a vegetable. Here I've got a potential staple food growing on a perennial shrub right next to my garden! (But - see update below.) It's a nitrogen-fixer, too, so it might be enhancing the soil nearby. Garth's mom took a look at my garden, when I asked her advice about how far to dig out the Manitoba maple roots, and declared that my vegetables didn't stand much of a chance with those "hungry" caraganas right next door. But I had to wonder, why is the grass so lush between them and the garden plot?

Some people hate caraganas. It's sort of a prairie pastime, to complain about them. I can't blame Garth's mom, since she has been struggling for years to eradicate volunteer caraganas from the bush and hedgerows all around her yard. Earlier this spring, when I suggested to Garth that he cut down a caragana that was crowding our path to a shed, he looked positively gleeful.

But at that point, he didn't know you could eat them.

UPDATE - I just looked again at the "Plants for a Future" page about caragana, and way down at the bottom there is a comment from a reader claiming that she nearly died from eating raw caragana pods as a child. Back to the research...

UPDATE 2 - My "check more sources" method is working very badly so far. I have found numerous sites that simply list plants as safe/non-toxic or as poisonous/toxic, and caragana makes appearances on both lists, sometimes even on the same page. What's really frustrating is that none of these sites mention what the toxic compound might be. One direct observation of my own gives me pause. Considering that this obvious legume seed has been available right next to subsistence gardens for a long time, why haven't people developed a tradition of eating it? Could it be that there's a good reason? I read that people in Siberia used caragana seed to carry their poultry through lean times, so it's not like they didn't recognize it as a harvestable crop.

Monday, May 22, 2006

On top of my dresser there is a crowded, dusty assortment of things I don't need. There's a plush puppy dog with a bright red heart on the front of its chest, and an annoying mass-market "Mother" tribute thing consisting of two glass panes hinged together and printed with clip-art roses and bad poetry. Somewhat more appealing are a popsicle-stick trinket box that James made for me for Mother's Day a couple of years ago, and a rock that Ruth painted to look like some sort of animal. There are also a couple of unnecessary objects which I suspect I may have acquired deliberately: a bottle with a curvy shape that appealed to me, and a plush Eeyore of which I am illogically possessive.

Perched among these oddly or dutifully treasured objects, there is an acrylic display stand holding a triangular chunk of flat rock with a western red lily painted on it. This is a "Volunteer of the Year" award from the Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan.

Last night as I walked home from a potluck supper celebrating the confirmation of seven young church members, including Ruth, I found myself thinking about that award. It had never occurred to me that I might receive it. I had recently resigned as newsletter editor, and I was still worrying about the trouble my departure had caused. Startled to hear my name called at the annual conference, I accepted the award and managed a few remarks, mostly thanking my family for their patience while I worked on the newsletter, but also suggesting that I would help the new editor by contributing articles from time to time.

That was over a year ago, and I haven't contributed a single article since.

I mused about that as I walked home last night, wryly recalling how we used to talk about people who were very active in the Society and then, once they gave up their volunteer role, didn't even keep up their membership. I wondered if many are people like me, who will struggle valiantly to deliver what is asked of them, but once the pressure is off, turn their attention to other struggles, or finally begin to pay some attention to home and family and discover an overwhelming mess of neglected needs.

This morning, moving slowly and stiffly, pulling myself awake for a big day of garden planting, I stooped in front of my dresser and pulled out a drawer. The slight vibration must have been just enough to bring that acrylic display stand forward onto the curved front edge of the dresser. The "Volunteer of the Year" painted rock tipped, fell, hit me sharply on the back of my head, and landed in my underwear drawer.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Warblers Return

A couple of days ago, walking from the garden toward the house in that peculiar dazed state as my back slowly straightened out and my awareness slowly broadened from task to surroundings, I halted and stared after an unmistakable pattern of black and orange. A redstart had just flitted across my yard.

I never would have expected to see one here in town. North in the hills, certainly, but here? There are plenty of hedgerows, but no big patches of bush. My guess is that he was just taking a little side tour while passing through.

Later, back at the digging, I listened to the background birdsong and noticed how it had changed since I first started my digging project. Meadowlarks, red-winged blackbirds, and robins have been joined by numerous goldfinches with their bright rising whistles and the exuberant-sounding "dip-dip-dip" of their flight song. I heard a sharp "Che-BEK! Che-BEK!" and thought, "Ah, a least flycatcher." But I also heard the clear whistled melody of a white-throated sparrow and thought about how the chickadees had fooled me way back in March. I don't know if there was an influx of chickadees, or if they switched from "dee-dee-dee" to their whistled song, or if I just suddenly started listening, but I thought I was hearing white-throated sparrows. This week I'm hearing the real thing and feeling a bit silly.

The reminder of my folly will soon pass, as the sparrows move on toward the edge of the boreal forest.

I continued to listen, and slowly some of the chorus resolved into two separate familiar songs: common yellowthroat and yellow warbler. That would make sense, in our small-town mosaic of lawns and trees and hedges. Still, mistrustful of my ear, I listened very intently, trying to bring to mind a clear recollection of the songs I knew, and at the same time to hear openly without the distortion of expectations.

One voice was very close. In fact, it came from the branches of the Manitoba maple directly behind me. What were the chances I could get a glimpse? Well, it couldn't hurt to try. I set down the shovel and walked toward the tree, not troubling too much about moving slowly or quietly or circuitously. The song stopped, but I saw a flicker of movement. A few more steps, and a little more movement among the leaves above, and there it was. Its striking black mask and bright yellow throat were familiar from fieldguide pictures, but as far as I can recall, I had never actually seen one before; I knew it only by its voice. And I knew it correctly, as the common yellowthroat.

Reassured, I went back to my shovel.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I'm a cautious person. When acquiring a new power, the first thing I want to learn is how to turn it off, stop, reverse all effects.

Looks like somebody else wasn't so cautious.

Garth found this in the back of a kitchen drawer yesterday and offered to straighten it. I said I wanted to put a picture on my blog first, and then he got downright anxious to straighten it, in case somebody thought I was serious. He would want you to know that he was going to straighten it with his big brawny hands.

The truth is, we found it in the lawn last fall. It's our spoon, alright, but the circumstantial evidence points to an encounter with the lawn mower.

That must have been back in the days before we got our quiet humble ground-driven reel-type mower, which would stop dead rather than put a mark in a spoon, even a plastic one, but cuts grass just fine.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Cyanogens in Legumes

Ahh, a break from shovelling. I'd rather be lounging than typing, but I develop such burning questions while I'm shovelling. I remembered a recent post by Eleutheros titled "Leather Britches," and got thinking again about cyanogens in legumes. Being basically lazy, I decided to just toss my questions out here and see if some of you can save me the research. If not, I'll try to find the answers in a week or two . . . after I've got my legumes planted.

Here's my quandary. I've heard that mature seeds of legumes, such as dry beans, should not be eaten raw or undercooked because they contain cyanogenic compounds. A wee bit of browsing the 'Net suggests to me that the problem is probably more complex and less universal than the way I just put it. But if it actually is that simple, then I have lots of questions:
  1. Does sprouting break down these compounds?
  2. Does it matter if a few unsprouted seeds remain in my batch of sprouts?
  3. At what point do these compounds develop? What if I let my peas get a little old and starchy?
  4. Since Eleutheros eats dried green beans, does that mean that the cyanogens develop only as the seeds are allowed to fully mature?
  5. Or does it mean that Eleutheros is tough?
  6. Or does it mean that cyanogens aren't a problem in all legumes, just some?
  7. Or does it just mean that this problem is overstated by overcautious food experts?
I went looking for details about green potatoes a while ago. How green does a potato have to be before I should worry about toxicity? Can I just peel off the green part? I dug through scads of sites warning about the dangers of green potatoes, and then finally found one (sorry, lost the link) that said you'd have to eat something like 200 pounds of green potato in one day to see any negative effects. Humph.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Dandelion Syrup

This I need to try. Just stumbled on it, just as my backyard is turning bright yellow . . .

I've Been Cloned

If you haven't yet discovered Wayne and Glenn at Niches, now is your perfect opportunity. You can actually have a Wayne or Glenn clone all to yourself. As a special bonus, they are also offering clones of other gurus of floral and faunal identification - myself included! Before you order, though, be sure to check the caveats in the comments. I'll add one more caution here: for best results, boost performance of your Laura clone by providing it with a good botanical key for your region. Otherwise it is likely to sit hunched in front of your mystery plant, mumble incomprehensibly about "family characteristics," and then settle into a repetitive disclaimer chant that will have you wondering if you were hoodwinked into buying a talking doll.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

My Mountain

It's not really mine. A neighbour owns the land on the outwash plain in the foreground, and up the first main slope of the hills. Beyond that, all the way to the horizon and down the forested north slope beyond, the land is all part of my parents' farm, where I grew up.

I made a run out there yesterday morning to pick up a load of manure from the old cattle-feeding area, now a garden and orchard. It's almost twenty years since they wintered cattle there, and the manure has rotted down to black gold. I get to take as much as I want, and enjoy the scenery along the way.

Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia)
(above and below)

Western Canada violet (Viola canadensis)
(above and below)

In case you didn't notice the crocuses, golden-bean (Thermopsis rhombifolia) makes sure you know that it's spring.

Tai Chi Labyrinth Update

To thread your way back through the maze of previous related posts, start here.

Ruth thought my project looked a bit spooky at this stage.

The gaps are narrowing . . .

As of this writing, I've actually connected the garden arc right through the sod in the foreground, and filled in the wedge of bare soil in the background with sod. Those are chives in the garden dot just right of centre.

I've still got a lot more digging to do. In the background at left, you may be able to pick out a semicircle outlined with blue flags. It's the same size as the sod semicircle in front of the chives. That whole semicircle in the background has to be deep dug to turn the sod into garden soil, and there are some narrow arcs out of sight (visible at the left in the top picture) to be deep dug as well. Meanwhile, the weather is looking beautiful this week, so I think I will put the digging on hold and plant the beds I've got.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Bleak on a Beautiful Day

Tired. So tired. I thought I would be on the rebound by now. Hard work always used to get easier, and in a way I think it is. I just did some digging in the hot sun without much trouble, but I come in to rest and just want to sink flat. I don't think I could get flat enough; something would still feel tired.

I don't think this comes from the work.

I think it's a head-to-toe heartache.

If only I could put my finger on the why.

My seedlings aren't growing. I know that's not it, but I don't want to look at anything else, or I'll wander off into the dark forest and down the black valley and into the tunneling vortex of despair, and have to wait for the magic of weeping and sleeping to fix it.

Why aren't my seedlings growing?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ten Beautiful Birds

Nobody tagged me, but I'm grabbing this meme as it goes by.

I won't say "most beautiful," because I'm sure I will think of others right after I hit the publish button. These are simply the beautiful birds from my own area that have come to mind, or crossed my vision, in recent days.
  1. Black terns, dipping and skimming over a dugout.
  2. American redstart. I will never forget the pair that raised their young in the livingroom window when I was young. I mean literally, in the window. We lived in a house trailer with windows consisting of shingled strips of glass that could be rotated open as louvers for ventilation. I guess the window louvers got left partly open, and the birds came in. They soon had a great tangle of twigs between the louvers and the screen. Who would want to stop them?
  3. Western grebe.
  4. Northern pintail.
  5. American avocet.
  6. For their song: Sprague's pipits, plural. That song came creeping into my consciousness one June day in the wide lonely beauty of the Great Sandhills, as I catalogued the flora of a proposed gas well site and access. As I became aware of it, I was struck by its seeming impossibility: an endlessly descending waterfall of trilling sound, never reaching a bottom, never running out of top. I've heard Sprague's pipits a few times in other places (including just down the road), but never in the numbers it takes for that kind of sound.
  7. And also for the song, this song familiar from beyond the bounds of conscious memory, just a part of the atmosphere of the forested north slope of the farm where I grew up: the veery.
  8. For their acrobatics: Eastern kingbirds.
  9. For gentle fearlessness: cliff swallows. I love to bike down to the bridge on the 604 and be wrapped up in a swirling twittering cloud of graceful birds.
  10. And finally, for sheer cheeky charm: the black-capped chickadee.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

An Arcologist with a Prior Claim

Well, look what I found. Somebody got to the word "arcology" ahead of me. Looks like he's got quite a substantial precedent established. Intriguing, the bit I looked at, but I won't be digging into it just yet. The true shovel-in-the-earth digging is more important right now.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Or is that too dignified a name for it? As I was digging up curved pieces of our back lawn, I found myself daydreaming about being asked what I was up to. My answer? "Removing all doubt that I'm insane!"

You might recall my Tai Chi Labyrinth post from last fall, about a labyrinth for meditative walking, with its design based on the Tai Chi symbol. I know, it has nothing to contribute to self-sufficiency, but I just can't let this idea go.

I originally imagined it built on grass, with stone borders outlining the paths. Garth said he didn't want rows of stones all over our yard, and I secretly agreed with him.

Then I thought about painting it onto a floor somewhere, but never quite got up the courage to approach any owners of big empty floors.

I set the idea aside and plodded on through winter. It wasn't much of a winter, in some ways, since there was almost no snow to shovel, but in other ways it was pretty dreary, since there wasn't enough snow to bother getting the skis out. Most of the time I couldn't even use a sled to get the groceries. All in all, the winter did its best to keep me in that dogged waiting-for-spring mood.

Mom dropped off a seed catalog so we could do our garden seed order together. I pulled out my Harrowsmith Northern Gardener and started reading about different styles of garden beds, trying to figure how much extra garden we could cram into our existing plot.

All of a sudden I saw my permanent wide beds bending into arcs. There was my labyrinth. Instead of broad footpaths separated with narrow lines of stones, I saw narrow footpaths winding among broad borders of garden. A fusion of two passions. It had to happen.

I sketched, and I plotted, and I calculated. I worked from both ends: how much garden I would get if I widened my labyrinth borders into garden beds, and how much garden I would need to grow the vegetables I had in mind. To my amazement, the numbers came out in the same range.

My mom told me I couldn't possibly want that many vegetables.

Garth told me I couldn't have the whole yard.

I listen to my mom. Sure, if I want to be self-sufficient, I should grow an even bigger garden than she and Dad do, but it's not wise to try to do it all at once.

I listen to Garth, too, although I don't like to admit it.

So, I asked Mom to pare back the seed order to something reasonable.

I tried to pay attention when Garth talked about neighbours that might lend us some garden space.

I put my sketches away (well, tucked them deeper in one of my paper piles), but still, I pulled them out and looked at them sometimes.

I started some seedlings.

When the snow went off the garden, I wandered around the edges of the muddy plot, pausing to gaze at it, but somehow, my mind refused to picture those orderly straight square-bound beds.

I noticed the grass of the adjacent lawn greening up, noticed where it seemed more lush, wondered what parts of the yard might respond best if converted to garden.

And then I saw the arcs again.

Only this time, the garden was just half of the labyrinth, just the black sweep of the Tai Chi symbol. The white sweep would be lawn, with some kind of subtle outline marking the paths . . . I'd figure that out later.

Garth said okay. In fact, he said something like, "I think you should do it."

Mom, hearing me explain at band practice why my hands were so tired from cutting sod, said she thought it was a good idea to make gardening more interesting. Really? My practical, keep-it-simple mother, endorsing my grand artsy self-indulgent scheme?

James, hearing me talk about the details of the design, asked if there would be a dot of garden in the lawn part, and a dot of lawn in the garden part, like in the Tai Chi symbol. "Yes!" I exclaimed, delighted at his curiosity and insight.

Ruth, watching me digging, wandered back and forth, looking from different angles, and said, "I don't get it. There's a sharp corner here." I explained that it would disappear as I took more sod out. She continued to wander back and forth, asking about other points of confusion, until she caught the gist of the design. I was cutting sod from one part, and using it to fill in a corner of the existing garden plot that would become lawn. To my astonishment, Ruth started helping me dig garden soil into the wheelbarrow to make way for the sod.

This might work.

Laying out the arcs

How much lawn can I take? (Note blue flags farther back in the picture)

Developing . . .

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Here Come the Parades . . .

. . . so let's warm up the band!

Parade season is almost upon us (already!). The Arcola Community Band usually marches in three or four parades each year. We have a core group of die-hard players, but we are always grateful to others who dust off an old instrument or just grab a drum stick and give it a try. The extra players really help to fill out our sound. And more than once, we've been amazed by a total beginner who took to the bass drum like a fish to water, and kept us all on the beat.

Sound like fun? Not quite sure? Well, here's your chance to try it out in advance. Instead of our regular rehearsal next week, we're having a supper and an evening of musical fun. We'll have the food for you, and maybe even an instrument that you can borrow for the parade season. We'll have some simple tunes to try, some people to help you learn (or remember) the basics, some marching practice (we all need it), and plenty of good humour. Everyone is welcome, no matter how little you play. If you only know three notes, we just might write a three-note part just for you. Or maybe you'll surprise yourself and learn a couple more. On the other hand, if you're looking for more of a challenge, maybe you can help carry the tunes, teach, or lead a file when the marching gets fancy. This is great fun, folks! And you get to wear a spiffy blue jacket and hat just like Garth in the picture above.

Please join us!
Friday, May 12th
5:30 p.m. for supper, or whenever you can get there
Arcola School

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Robin White-Wig

There was a post recently at Bootstrap Analysis about mutations in wildlife in the Chernobyl area. In barn swallows, albino head feathers were much more frequent.

I couldn't recall ever noticing albinism in any birds before this spring. But this spring, a robin with albino plumage on the head appeared in our yard. I have seen him several times in the area, and this morning I managed some slightly fuzzy pictures.

According to Journey North, there is one full or partial albino in 30,000 robins.