Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Splashing With Benny

July was a record-breaker as far as rainfall goes. Several times during the course of the month, creeks swelled and flooded their banks. A few of those times, we would witness fish which were stranded in puddles when those waters receded. Some were easy to scoop up and toss into the nearby water where they belonged (which Frank made a point of doing), and some which were more elusive, were left to perish when the puddle would evaporate in the hot sun.

Our usual evening walk takes us along a path which roughly follows the creek. Following a particularly torrential downpour, the skies cleared and the sun glinted off of the rain-soaked creek. As Frank, Benny and I made our way along a low-lying part of the walk, the path disappeared under water.

Frank was willing to turn back and call it a walk but Benny was still raring to go.

I opted to kick off my shoes and socks, leave them with Frank and see how far along we could get.

If you've been following Benny's antics from other blog posts, you'll know that in his wonderful doggie mind, moving water is a challenge.

As he noticed the current...

...and the splashes from my own footsteps, he had to have them.

And of course I had to oblige by kicking water at him.

We continued like this along the path until we came to a dip in the valley. The water was a bit deeper here, which would have been fine since we were both already soaking wet, but the rain had washed a lot more of the mud along with it, making for very slippery footing.

I wasn't willing to sacrifice my camera, so we turned back toward home.

Kicking and splashing in the water with Benny that day seemed to be a perfect tension-breaker. It had been a particularly stressful week and for that day, much of it dissipated each time my feet made contact with the water.

A few days later, I read this post by my bloggie buddy, Suldog. It tells of the emotions and wonder we felt as children when we explored and discovered the joy of learning by playing. The mood of his post instantly brought to mind the memory of this recent walk through the puddles. I hope you'll read it, and become a Suldog fan too.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Mud In Your Eye

Last week's visit to the cottage has already begun to feel like a distant memory and I hope that we can get back there sometime soon.

You might remember that last September, we took the boat out and tried to fish for walleye. I kept on hooking and reeling in catch after disappointing catch, with nary a walleye in sight. At that time, Frank insisted that I learn to hook my own worm and remove my own catch from the hook - and I did. This year he added one very nasty task to the routine. I had to "blow up" my own worm. It took me a couple of seasons to even stomach watching while Frank injected his worms with air and now he wanted me to handle that job myself. Gulp!

Here's what's required. After piercing the slimy, wriggly creature with the hook, the worm is held steady with one hand, while inserting a syringe-like needle into its body. The needle is attached to a small, empty plastic bottle. A quick squeeze of the bottle injects a puff of air into the worm so that it will float above the sinker which otherwise weighs it down to the bottom of the lake. This makes the worm more enticing for curious, hungry walleye.

I was beginning to get the hang of it after a few tries, and began to relax a bit. By the fourth or fifth time, it became routine. I hooked the worm, and held it in place while finding and unscrewing the safety cap from the "worm blower." I inserted the needle into the worm and casually squeezed the bottle. The worm immediately squeezed back and squirted me right in the eye with - I don't know - worm guts! It was unattractive to say the least. So was Frank's laughter. Really unattractive, Frank!

I managed to survive it, rinsed my fingers and face off with lake water and proceeded to catch my one and only walleye.

Here's my walleye under the knife. Frank's skillful fingers had it beheaded, filleted, skinned and wrapped in no time flat. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

We were treated to several beautiful sunsets during our stay - like this one. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

The setting sun lends such lovely light to everything it kisses. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

We drove into a nearby town one afternoon, where we eventually did a bit of shopping. On our way out of this general store, Francis spotted this little chipmunk feasting on some spilled sunflower seeds atop a storage shelf. It scarcely gave us a glance while it greedily filled its cheeks. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

The Hummingbird feeder was like an airport with incoming flights and frequent departures. This little one thrummed past my head and posed briefly for a photo. It appeared to take notice of a wasp which was anticipating its own taste of the sweetened water. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

A couple of parked Kayaks offered a splash of colour to the view seen outside the back door. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

Benny spent many hours honing his swimming skills. He also perfected his water-biting skills. Rather than wait for waves to roll in...

.. I accommodated him by splashing and kicking the water his way. He obliged by jumping up to bite as many droplets as he could. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

On our last day, we fished until the sun began to set. The rising moon and clouds reflected some rich colours. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

Back on shore, the sky exploded with colour for the last sunset of our holiday. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

As we were cleaning out the cottage and packing up the car to go home, we noticed this bug sunning itself on the railing of the deck. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

We left the cottage on a perfectly sunny day. The sky was a brilliant blue with only occasional wispy clouds. We packed up the car without concern about rain. Canvas bags and other not-so-water-resistant items were secured to the roof rack and off we went.

As we headed for home, the sky changed considerably. All around us we could see pockets of angry weather and each slowdown on the highway was nerve-wracking to say the least, but we managed to make it home with moments to spare before the sky opened up. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

Benny does not like it when he doesn't know where we're going. He's pretty good in the car if it's a routine trip, like when Frank comes to my place or home again, but the trip to and from the cottage was different and wrong! Here he is doing his distressed chimpanzee imitation. (Make sure your sound is on!)

But eventually, all becomes right in his world again. (Click the photo to enlarge it)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Between Dawn and Dusk

Last week, Frank, his older son Francis and I spent a few days up at their cottage. The weather was what Frank would refer to as good fishing days - mostly overcast and often rainy. The cloudy skies did occasionally yield to the sun in short-to-moderate bursts, often at the times of day that I like the best - when it begins its ascent or descent in the sky.

Most mornings were dull, and often rainy, so I was in the habit of sleeping right through the days' dawning. A large living room window allowed for a perfect view from the open bedroom door, and a quick glance while rousing usually confirmed that the sky was gray. One morning, I stole a sleepy peek outside and noticed that the lake had a warm, pink hue to it. Knowing full well that if I just rolled over and went back to sleep, I'd miss the week's only decent sunrise, so I grabbed my camera and headed out the back door to the dock.

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This is the scene that greeted me.

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Other mornings, the lake was cloaked with a moody fog.

Since most days were good for fishing, we did a fair bit of it. I caught my first Walleye (Pickerel) which Frank deemed to be just within keeper range.

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The next afternoon, he took the boat out alone for a few hours and came home with this beauty, which he promptly filleted and wrapped for freezing.

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While Frank was out fishing, Francis and I bonded with each other and with nature. He lifted rocks, logs and and other things to reveal a few hidden creatures. This snake was hiding in the raft.

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This tiny toad allowed me a shot with my macro before Francis released it back into the grass.

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An overturned rock revealed this Red-spotted Newt - part of the Salamander family.

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After an unfortunate launch-tip-splash of the canoe, Francis changed his clothes, and got right back into the saddle paddle.

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Glancing back toward the shore to my left, the boathouse and launch are partly obscured by the gnarly trunk of this cedar.

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The evenings kindly offered many lovely sunsets. Here's one of them.

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A few minutes later the sky was ablaze with brilliant colour.

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On a different night, colours were more subtle, but created a pretty backdrop behind the silhouette of this tree.

In a few days, I'll post some more photos, some of which will include that goofball Benny.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Neighbourhood Hippiefest

Last Saturday we held our annual street sale and party. We've been doing this every summer (except one) since 1992. I got the idea from an issue of Canadian Living Magazine promoting Canada's 125th birthday. Our country has aged another 16 years since then and so this would have marked our 15th year of blocking off the street and partying into the night. Each year we select a theme for our party. Past years' ideas included Summer Olympics, Hawaiian Luau and last summer's Mardi Gras. This year's theme was the 1960's

We always start the day with a street sale. Interested neighbours haul out their junk treasures, and inevitably, a few kidlets start up a lemonade stand. Children invade their piggy banks and promptly dash around from house to house, buying up the biggest, ugliest stuffed animals and other eye-sores which previous owners are all to happy to unload. The same items will be out there next year, on a table in their own driveway.

Over the years, we've been very lucky with weather. This year was no exception. The predicted rain showers held off until shortly after noon, when everyone was pretty much ready to pack it in anyway. And then it poured. It rained heavily for about fifteen minutes and it began to look as if the afternoon activities would be rained out. But the sun gods were with us. As suddenly as they rolled in, the clouds moved on to cleanse a different part of the city, and the strong afternoon sunshine quickly dried the streets in time for chalk drawings.

Sidewalk art kicks off the afternoon activities for the kids.

Face Painting was more simple than usual this year. We hid the books that offer complicated, time-consuming designs and stuck with symbols which represent the 60's such as peace signs, flowers and butterflies.

Most of the adults walked away sporting a bit of art too.

While some faces got decorated, others looked toward the craft table. In keeping with this year's theme, the kids tried their hands at tie-dye They had the option of traditional long head scarfs or triangular bandannas. Jo and Sandra did a great job of organizing this activity.

First they drew designs on the material of choice.

Then they tied them in several places.

After treating them with dye, the elastics and ties came off.

And the pieces were hung to dry.

See how well they turned out ?

Even my metal head son became a hippie that day.

Once everyone had completed the crafts, it was time for a treasure hunt. I had written up a series of clues, each of which led to the next, and had the kids running around to various houses on our street. The kids were to work as a team and help each other. There was enough treasure for everyone. The final clue was a poem which read like this:

This treasure isn't buried
You will not need to dig
It isn't very tiny
But it isn't really big

There's enough of it for sharing
There's some for everyone
Read this very carefully
Your work is almost done

First go to the green box
Where you found one of the clues
Everyone together
This is what you do

Starting very slowly
Count to thirty-three
Jump up and down and shout
Then go and hug the tree

Move 3 homes towards the dead end
Then get down on the ground
Now do a somersault or two
While you make a squawking sound

Now put your shirts on backwards
For everyone to see
You really have to do these things
Or you will not get "The Key"

Cross the street together
Hopping like a bunny
All the while laughing LOUDLY
Like you just heard something funny

Wander up the sidewalk
Towards the corner of the block
This time moving backwards
Don't run now, just walk

When you get out to the corner
Here's what you must do
Sneeze your very loudest
let's hear it now...

Make your way back carefully
Take a look around
Each one of you must find a stone
That's lying on the ground

When everyone has found a stone
Bring them all to me
You will see me waiting
With the treasure and the key

You wont have trouble finding me
I'll be out in plain view
Whoever gives a stone to me
The treasure goes to YOU!

The chest was filled with these goodies.

Jo collected the stones and handed out the goodie bags. Her son Tyler checked to make sure she didn't forget any.

Guessing games were next. Everyone who was interested took a guess at each one of the jars which were filled with various candies. I had pre-counted them all and knew what each jar contained. Toward the end of the evening we determined the winners.

Here's Mario making his guesses.

Ryan didn't want to participate at first but turned out to be the best estimator of the bunch. He walked away with two winning jars of candy.

Soon, our pot luck dinner was served and everyone enjoyed a wonderful meal.

Erin baked this incredible cake for dessert - perfect for the occasion.

It looked great and it was delicious!

Winston (who you might remember from this post) and Frank were the youngest and oldest dressed-up hippies present.

And what can we say about Lloyd? Far out, man!

Di organized a cash draw which yielded three prizes of $120, $60 and $30.

Her little helper called out the winning numbers.

One of those numbers belonged to Kevin!

And there was music. Riley joined Alex and his friend Dave to played guitar.

Frank and I were pretty much done by midnight. We turned in with a relaxing cup of tea. I hear that others partied on until 4 a.m. in true neighbourhood style. Perhaps we're just getting too old. After all, we were both born before the 60's!

You can see these and many more street party images in somewhat random order when you watch this slideshow.