Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Its Foggy, but I Ate a Lobster

Well, I just finished my first full day in Alma, New Brunswick and there's great symmetry in my experience so far, since I began the day without any electricity to my room, and just now, as I'm tucking myself in for some much needed sleep, the power went out again.  Maybe it's some sort of energy saving technique employed by thrifty Canadians?  Or maybe someones hair dryer blew a fuse again?  I'm too tired to go tell the dude who lives here about the problem, and since there are no phones in the room to call him, I'll just wait until the morning.  I managed not to freeze to death last night, and to take a shower in the dark this morning, so I know I'll survive.  Does this count as camping? 

Today was a classroom day, which was just as well I guess, since it drizzled all day.  We started the day with bacon and eggs at the local store and restaurant, and then spent the rest of the day in a unheated classroom in the Alma activity center learning about stream hydraulics.  The instructor is obviously a genius with an entire career of experience restoring streams, and his reputation brought us all the way here so we could hear him speak, but he has a very soft voice, and really likes formulas and slides with logarithm graphs, which wasn't the best combination for participants like me who were sleep deprived, chilled, and soothed by the gentle dripping of the rain on the window panes.  The big bowl of lobster bisque soup I had for lunch didn't exactly perk me up either.  

When class let out at five thirty, we knew we only had about an hour and a half before dark, so we didn't waste any time and headed to the wharf to see the high tide.  The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world, and the water level changes by more than twenty feet during the tide.  As we drove to class this morning, we could see all the fishing boats at the wharf sitting on the ocean floor.  After class, they were floating near the top of the pier.  Notice the name of the boat in the photo above?  Dead Men Tell No Tales.  Creepy, but somehow appropriate to the setting.  The sea and the fog are the same color, and we couldn't tell where one ended and the other began.  I'm glad I'm not out on a boat today.  

After the wharf, we drove into the national park, and chose a short hiking trail so we could stretch our legs and work up an appetite.  

The forest was wonderful.  Not only was it beautiful, but it smelled amazing, like spruce and fir trees.  My first thought as we stepped into the forest was that it smelled like Christmas trees, only even stronger.  I sniffed the air so much I chilled my sinuses!  I wished I could cut armloads of branches and bring them into my room so I could keep the smell with me.    

The pale bark of the birch trees with their almost golden leaves contrasted sharply with the dark green of the spruce and fir trees.  The birch bark has great variation in color too, and some layers were orange and some were pink.  

The fall colors haven't reached their peak, but occasionally a maple would have vibrant red leaves, which really stand out against the yellow and green.  

The trail we chose followed a steep boulder filled stream.  After hearing about streams and their processes all day, it was nice to see a real one in action.  

The slopes on either side of the stream and trial were covered in mossy stones and ferns.  These forests are so different than the forests at home, that it was like walking in a story book forest.  I kept expecting to see gnomes or fairy peaking from behind the mossy tree trunks.  

The highlight of the trail was the waterfall and cascades.  

After our short hike, we stopped by our rooms and I took the picture above of the door to my room.  Supposedly, there's an entire ocean in the distance, and the view is lovely.  All I could see was gray.  

I've been dreaming of and talking about lobster since the trip was on the books, and tonight was my first chance for indulgence.  I was not disappointed! I decided the claw meat was my favorite, and the greenish liver inside the body cavity was my least favorite.  Our waitress insisted that the liver was good and that we should eat it too, and when she asked me if I liked it and I told her it tasted like the ocean smells, I got a big laugh.  She said "I don't know if that's a good thing or not" and I said "me neither".  

Monday, September 29, 2014

New Brunswick, Aye?

Notice anything strange about the plane that took my two work buddies and I from Toronto to Moncton, in New Brunswick Canada today?  It has propellers!  I can't remember ever riding in a an airplane with propellers before.  Since most of my flying has been on large jets, it was slightly unnerving to get on a relatively small plane like this one.  

The air plane that took us from Cincinnati to Toronto wasn't really any bigger, and now that I've been reminded of propellers, I wonder how this one even flies?  I took it's picture because I liked seeing the maple leaf on the tail fin.  It made me feel like I was really going to Canada.  

My first impression of Toronto?  It's flat.  Really, really flat, and the city spreads out as far as I could see.  I didn't get to leave the airport, of course, so I'm sure there's more to Toronto than flatness, but that was my impression.   

Our destination today, was the town of Alma, near Fundy Bay National Park, where we will be attending a workshop.  For an all day travel day, which started before five in the morning, and didn't end until after nine, it was a pretty good day.  Once we arrived in Moncton, we stopped at this neat store, where they sold all organic and natural foods.  We loaded up on healthy snacks and drinks, and then stopped at the grocery store for fresh fruits.  I'm not sure this will compensate for all the snacks, giant cheese burger, and jumbo beer I had at the airport, but it was a very nice first Canadian shopping experience.   

I wish I had taken a picture of our beautiful food from the Blue Olive, but it was such tasty Mediterranean food that we scarfed it down before I even thought about photos.  We plan to take advantage of all the sea food options we have now that we are near Fundy Bay, so we were happy to find great hummus and Greek salads in Moncton.  

My room at the Fundy Highlands chalets is functional, and clean.  I think it will have lovely views too, but we arrived after dark, and it was cloudy with sprinkles of rain, so we couldn't see anything.  The clerk tells us the weather has been beautiful until today, when it turned cold.  Hopefully over then next few days, we will have some nice weather, and get to do some exploring.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Acorns from my Friend, The Big Tree

My parents have a big white oak (Quercus alba) tree in their front yard.  Once upon a time, this tree was growing in the front yard of my dad's grandparents cabin, along with two other trees.  Two of the trees burned up (whoops!) when the rotten old cabin was burned to make way for the house my parents built.  I believe the fire pruned some branches off this tree as well, although thirty-six years later you can't tell anymore.  With the neighboring trees gone, this one took advantage of all that space and light and reaches it's arms wide and high. 

Right now, the big tree is full of acorns, and they rain down on the metal roof of the house which sounds like someone is launching cannon balls at us.  It's exciting to stand in the front yard during a light breeze, since you never know when you might get konked on the noggin.  

Jamie and I decided to risk concussion to collect some of the acorns, and before long we filled an entire gallon baggie.  There are so many!

Mom's cat supervised from the picnic table. Brave kitty, to sit so still during an acorn bombardment.  

Can you see the little roots coming out of these recently fallen acorns?  I cut the tops out of some plastic jugs, poked holes in them, put in some gravel from my landscaping and some potting soil, and planted four or five of the sprouted acorns in each.  The rest of the bag of acorns is in the refrigerator, stuffed with damp newspaper to keep them fresh until spring.  

I would really like to have some baby oak trees to plant at the the farm that came from this big tree, since I have a sentimental attachment to it.  It's like a old family friend.  You know, that huge family friend that you all hope never falls on you, or any of your possessions, and sometime pelts you with hard objects.  That one.  Not only was this tree there when my great grandparents lived in this place, but it's a constant prop in my memories too.  See the large limb on the right side of the picture above?   We used to have a swing that was attached at that limb.  The tree might not have been as large thirty years ago, but still, that swing went scary high!  

Like most things you take for granted, I forget how tall the big tree is until I see it from a distance, with the house for scale.  That's a really big tree!  Maybe I just need one at the farm house...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sugar Coated Bees

I'm not sure what proper bee keepers wear to keep bees from going up their pant legs, but last weekend, when I opened the hives at my parents house, I borrowed a pair of my dad's long socks, and tucked my pant legs into them.  Not only does this make me feel safer around the swarming bees, it also enhances my dweeb factor exponentially.  Super Dweeb!

Even though high socks and a tucked in shirt is not my favorite style, I'm going to share the photos Jamie took as I sugar coated the bees.  I read that sprinkling powdered sugar on the bees would help them remove mites.  I've never seen a bee mite, but it's a common problem, and bees with too many mites are sometimes not healthy enough to survive the winters.  Since bees like to eat sugar, this is supposed to be a method to help control mites without resorting to toxic chemicals.  Most importantly, it's fun to do!  

As you can see in the photo above, I approach the hive cautiously and puff smoke in the direction of the hive.  

These bees are using the front and the back of the hive to come and go, so I puffed some smoke around each entrance.  

The top of the hive is made of plastic, and lifts off to reveal the wooden panel on the top, which has a hole in it that the bees tried to seal with wax sticky propolis.  Notice that we have one large box, called a super, on the bottom of the hive, and a smaller one on the top.  

The top board is always glued down tight by the bees, so I used the nifty hive tool to pry it up and puff in some smoke.  I was super cautious when opening the hives this time, because I've read that the bees are more aggressive during the late summer and early fall because they can't afford to lose the honey they've stored for the winter, and it's too late to make much more.  Plus, a friend of mine told me that she experienced an aggressive hive response recently, from bees that are normally very calm, which sort of spooked me.  

As you can see, there were bees in the top super, and on the bottom of the lid.  I just set the lid board in the grass, with the bees facing up, and they didn't seemed bothered by that at all.  I'm pretty sure I would have been more upset if someone had turned my world inside out and upside down.  

We were really hoping that the bees would have filled the frames in the small top super with honey, so that we could steal a few to bottle.  Unfortunately, despite all the activity on the frames, they only had wax in the top super.  This makes us nervous that they don't have enough honey for themselves, so dad is going to start feeding them sugar water to see if that helps.  We didn't really want our bees to be dependent on us for food, but I would rather give them junk food than open a dead hive, like I did this spring.  

I removed the top super, and set in on it's side in the grass, and sprinkled powdered sugar from a small sieve into the top of the large super on the bottom.  This box was full of bees, and the ones near the top would get frosted and move down into the hive, probably to get away from the dweeb with the sugar, and I could see new un-frosted bees, so I would sprinkle them too.  

Soon, everybody looked like ghost bees, so I put the small super back on top.  

I gave those bees a good sprinkling too, and then sprinkled the bees on the bottom of the lid.  I hope this powdered sugar trick actually works.  If nothing else, it gave them a little snack, and gave me a reason to open the hives and check on their progress.  After all the drama of getting these bees installed in the hive, I really hope they make it though the winter.  Cross your fingers!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Pouring The Step and a Gift of Peppers

We stayed overnight at the farm house last Saturday, and for the first time I was able to get a good nights sleep there.  I think I have finally assembled enough of the comforts of home that I don't feel like I'm camping in a construction zone.  Having a hot shower available and not seeing Carlos the house snake in months probably has a lot to do with my comfort level too.  Now, if I could just get rid of all the spiders and dust! 

I was woken Sunday morning to the sound of Brandon banging on something.  When I came to investigate, I found that he was chipping the uneven edge from the cement slab that is the bathroom floor, and digging out some of the soil under the house in preparation of pouring cement in the step down to the bathroom.  Before breakfast even!

Once he framed around the step with some scraps of wood, and excavated enough of the soil, he poured in some gravel.  

Supposedly, having a few inches of gravel under the cement will allow moisture to drain through the gravel and protect the cement.  I think it's likely that the cement slab in the bathroom didn't have any gravel, and that's why it cracked in several places.  

We used the wheel barrow and the garden hose to mix together the quickrete, right there in the bathroom, and then poured it over the gravel.   

Nothing ever goes as smoothly as it should, and in this case we found out that we were just a few inches short of enough cement to finish the job.  We had to wait until one o'clock for the local hardware store to open, and Brandon's patience was sorely tested.  I predict that living at the farm is going to test our patience frequently, as we are used to living in close proximity to many twenty four hour conveniences.  He was at the hardware store as they unlocked the doors and had his second batch mixed up and poured quickly.   

He smoothed the top with a trowel, and I was surprised that he could get the finish that he achieved, considering the rough and rocky texture of the cement when he mixed it up.  Ultimately, the step will be tiled, so it the finish wasn't that important.  We understand now how much skill it takes to get a completely smooth surface on cement.  Once Brandon cleaned his tools, I was left with a very dirty bathroom floor to mop.  

The Step project was quite satisfying.  Of course, our decision to move the step into the kitchen and out of the bathroom door created a lot of work, and we still have some logistics to figure out about how to hand the door, so the verdict is still out on if it was the best idea.  

After a long day of step building, and insulation hanging, our neighborly neighbor stopped by to chat and deliver a giant bag of bell peppers from his garden.  I've never been able to grow bell peppers that were this big!  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tree Frog and Earthquake Test

Brandon discovered this little pinch of frog on the rim of the dumpster last week, out at the little farm house.  This is the first gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor) that I've seen at the farm.  Normally, these aren't frogs that are easy to see, since they spend most of their time in trees, but for some reason this one was hanging out on the dumpster.

We don't have any permanent bodies of water on our farm, so I can only guess that he was making his way between our forested tree line on the east side of the farm and the neighbors pond on the west side, and thought the dumpster was a nice warm place to take a break. 

Apparently, tree frogs can change their color so the blend into their surroundings.  This one must not have rusty red in his repertoire.  He does look a lighter color in the photos where Brandon has him in his hands, but maybe I'm seeing things.  Look at the first two photos and tell me if you see it too? 

The neatest thing about holding him was the sticky finger pads suction cups.  They really had some grip!  We practically had to pry them off our fingernails.  

Besides having fun with the tree frog last weekend, we also had fun insulating part of the sloped dining room ceiling, and putting up more wood beadboard. Fiberglass insulation isn't loads of fun, but it was a relief when we were finished working with it and got to move on to the wood.  

Well, it was mostly fun.  It wasn't too fun when Brandon gave his mother and I scare by tumbling from the step ladder to the floor.  Fortunately he wasn't hurt because he did a somewhat graceful rolling, groaning, flopping around lumberjack/ninja-like fall before he ended up on his back spread eagle on the floor amid his tools, where he stayed for a few seconds waiting for awareness of injury.  We rushed to his side and stood over him making horrified and concerned faces.  Like any loving wife, I was very concerned and peppered him with questions while he was trying to catch his breath. "Did you break your wrist?! Please, please tell me you didn't break your wrist. I mean, if you've broken your wrist we will never get this house built, and I don't get a goat until the house is finished!  Oh, this is terrible, woe is me!"  

I think it says good things about our carpentry that Brandon can hit the floor so hard it shakes the house, and nothing we nailed up fell down.  Good to know in case there's ever an earthquake, right?     

When Brandon was finished with his little break, he got up and we finished tacking up the last few boards. We had to stop when we ran out of materials, but as you can see from the photo above, which I took from a seated position in the living room, we made some noticeable progress.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Portrait of Cat in Constant Motion

I know that there are already a bazillion photos of adorable kittens on the interweb, but can the world ever really have too many pictures of adorable kittens?  I think not!  Recently, as I was playing with new Newt, and thinking how cute she was, I decided that I should take a picture of her now, before she outgrows the little kitten look.  You know, for my scrap book blog.  However, I have not been able to get any non-blurry photos of her because she will not hold still

When we first brought her home she was very snugly and still, but she was also scrawny and starving.  Now that she's been fed plenty of kitten chow, she's in constant motion, which makes it very hard for me and my cell phone camera.  You would think, considering cats and kittens are the most represented species on the world wide web, that cell phone manufactures would realize that we all want to take pictures of our cats, and make a special photo setting for this.  I tried to get her to hold still by baiting her to a jar with kiffer residue.  But when I squatted down to frame my shot, she stopped investigating the jar to see what I was up to.  Back up, you are too close!

No, not with your tongue out, silly cat.  

She jumped from the floor to my shoulder, so I thought I might be able to capture her selfie style.  Nope, too wiggly.  

Nope, too much forehead, not enough kitten.

Stop purring and rubbing on my face and just hold still for one second!

Ack, my glasses! No, no, no, I don't want a picture of that end!   

So close... just one more shot and I'll have it...


I finally resorted to holding her in the air with my left hand and trying to take the photo with my right hand.  This is not the cute pose I was hoping for!  Oh well, I'll either have to get a better camera or try again sometime when she's asleep.  
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...