Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Birthday

Today is my dear ol' dad's birthday. As most of you know, he passed away in March of this year, and sadly we will not be celebrating with him anymore. Today he would have been 94. He had a good life, but I sure miss him today.

Happy Birthday Dad!

These photos are how I remember him best ... always enjoying a good long bike ride 
and enjoying the sunshine.

cycling in rural Burlington where he lived

his only back country camping trip on Little Joe Lake (his name was Joe too) in Algonquin Park in 1958 ...
they sure rented out nice canoes back then!

Cheers Dad!

love you and miss you,

Friday, August 18, 2017

Canoe Museum, Peterborough, Ontario

Yesterday my husband and I visited Peterborough, Ontario. My daughter attended university here and when we would visit her, we all went out for a nice lunch or dinner together at one of the many wonderful restaurants in town. We had a nice lunch at Hot Belly Mama's yesterday and then we decided to visit the Canoe Museum. This building is full of canoes and kayaks, many of which were built by First Nations people from all across Canada. The museum is well set up so that you visit the oldest canoes and kayaks first and then work your way forward through time.

But my first visit was to the ladies' room ... I loved the sign on that door ;)

There's something so beautiful about canoes ... their shape, the cedar strips, the birchbark, the construction, the amazing handiwork ... all come together to create something so aesthetically pleasing. We've visited the museum a couple of times before, and I'm always amazed at this collection. There are so many canoes!! And they are all beautifully made.

And now I will just say .... there are a lot of photos here, and if you're not interested in canoes, let me save you some time and say don't bother with reading this post.

The dugout canoes are amazing. Basically, a tree is felled and the centre dug out. Hot rocks are placed inside the dug out portion to stretch the wood widthwise, which shrinks the wood in length. 

a wolf is carved in the tip of this canoe with paintings along the sides
 This is a very old dugout canoe ... just look at the grain in that wood!

Below is the whole dugout ... enormous!

Details of how to build your own ...

Another dugout canoe ...

A replica of a Haida war canoe, built from a single cedar log ...

Next on display was a vast collection of birch bark canoes, many of which were fashioned from one single piece of birch bark. You won't find a birch tree big enough these days to get such a big piece of bark. The bark is shaped by slicing it in places and these "gores" were covered with pine pitch. I searched for birch bark canoe construction and found this interesting read on how to build your own. I like the ending instruction: "Carve a paddle. Go fishing." The details in these canoes is amazing.

you can see the "gores" along the side of this canoe

From there we went to the Arctic and saw some beautiful sealskin covered kayaks. The sealskin coverings on many of these kayaks looks very brittle, and probably beyond repair. The frames of the kayaks are beautifully made just as the birch bark canoes. A lot of the kayaks were stacked on racks and difficult to photograph. 

you can see the stacks of kayaks in the background

As I mentioned, the display went from oldest to newest canoes & kayaks. I've shown the displayed canoes in relatively chronological order. The next set are more birch bark canoes and cedar strip canoes of a later period.

do you see the moose decorating the side of this canoe?

Decorations were added to the side of the birch bark canoes by using "winter bark". The bark was moistened and the reddish portion scraped away until only the pattern was left in the reddish colour.

Below is a replica of a canoe (built in 1972) used to transport goods during the fur trade. This canoe is enormous!

When my husband and I are out canoeing, we've seen a lot of paddles that have the chevron stripes on them. We saw these decorations on some of the old paddles in the museum as well. 

There are other non-canoe related items in the museum as well. The next few photos are of a buckskin jacket gifted to a man working for a year as a bookkeeper in Fort Hope, Ontario, in 1908. The native women there made him this clothing, and I was amazed at the details in the needlework.

okay, okay, I know ... too many photos :]

I have a few more, but am tired of writing this post myself. Maybe another day I'll try your patience again.

Thanks for stopping by!

This poem was in the bathroom ...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Doing Art and Caught in a Storm in Algonquin Park

My husband and I just returned from an extended week of camping in our beloved Algonquin Park, Ontario. Last summer at the park I picked up a blank paddle at the Algonquin Outfitters store to decorate for a contest the store is holding to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Tom Thomson. How could I resist?

It took me a while to decide just how to decorate my paddle, but I finally decided to use this guy as my inspiration ...

This is a somewhat tame raven that lives in the park. I met him last fall in the parking lot of the Portage Store and took a few photos of him. This summer I ran into him again over at the Art Centre just down the road from the Portage Store. He was hanging around the parking lot there, and obviously waiting for a food handout. He is so old and scruffy looking, and I obliged him and tossed him a couple of treats so that I could get a few more shots of him.

Ravens are really smart birds, and they are just as northern to me as the loons. I love their rough croaking call, their huge 'furry' beaks and their heavy feathers that create a thick ruff under their throats. We saw so many ravens this past week, and meeting up with this guy again was a pleasure.

Back to my paddle ... I decided to carve a lino block and try printing it directly onto the paddle. I haven't done this before (on wood), and was really just working my way slowly through it. This is the lino block I carved ...

I painted my paddle with grey chalk paint and then printed the raven in black ink onto the blade of the paddle. It looked quite sharp, but also with a slight roughness to the print. I distressed the edges of the paddle in places too with a bit of sanding. I was first doing each of these steps on a practice piece of board because I wasn't sure how the paints and inks and finishes would react to each other. I also bought some liquid wax to use over the chalk paint and ink. Unfortunately, when I rubbed the liquid wax over the chalk paint and ink print, the wax lifted up the black ink!! Good thing I tested that. I really wanted to use the wax because I liked the finish it gave to the chalk paint, but I wasn't willing to risk making a mess of the ink print. I only had one paddle to work on so I couldn't ruin it! Instead I opted to use a spray water-based Varathane finish. If you are interested it's called "Diamond Wood Finish, water based, crystal clear, satin finish". I had to take all of this stuff up camping with me and was spraying the Varathane finish on the picnic table in our campsite for a couple of days. It worked really well, with a clear even finish. I sprayed on the four coats as recommended on the can, and since it was in satin finish, there was just a slight sheen to the paddle. I had hoped for a matte finish, but this worked out okay, and was the only thing we had in the house ;)

I had to deliver the paddle to the outfitters store at some point during our stay as the deadline to do so was August 31. I first wanted to take the paddle out on a lake for a photo shoot, and thought Canoe Lake would be perfect for this. Canoe Lake is where Tom Thomson spent a lot of time painting and it's where his body was found in July 1917. We took our canoe over to the lake and figured we'd take it out to a large rock on the shore at the former town of Mowat. It was just across the lake from the Portage Store, and not far to paddle. It was a hot sunny day, but there was that blue haze in the air that tells you a storm is building up. My husband felt sure the storms were to arrive around 5 pm (he depends a lot on his phone for the weather), and it was only 2 pm so we decided to go. 

The wind was high and the water was rough. We had to paddle directly across the lake to reach the rocky point, and the waves were pretty much sideways to our canoe, but not too bad yet. We reached the rocky point and got out and I quickly snapped a half dozen shots of the paddle. In my haste I forgot to photograph the back as well (I had carved a feather print for the back). Looking at the lake at this point, I admitted to my husband that I was nervous about paddling back. He said he was too. The wind had increased and the waves were a lot higher. We agreed to hug the shore line all the way around the north and east side of the lake to avoid getting caught in high waves in the middle. 

About halfway back, however, the sky suddenly darkened and a huge solid mass of black clouds were quickly descending towards us. The waves were getting really crazy and it was extremely difficult to paddle. When lightening and thunder suddenly crashed ahead of us, my husband yelled at me that we should go directly across the lake instead. I guess he wanted to beat the storm before it arrived right in the lake. Everything in me was screaming "NO!" as being in the middle of the lake is nuts during a storm. But at this point it was taking all we had to keep the canoe going forward in a straight line against a strong wind and against the increasingly high waves. Now each wave we met was crashing over the side of the canoe and onto my legs. To say I was terrified is an understatement. I've never been so scared in our canoe. The sky had darkened so much that it looked as if it was 8:00 at night. The water was so menacing looking, very black and wild! I was afraid to look at the oncoming storm with fork lightening flashing in the black clouds, and I was afraid to look at the dark wild water all around us! I honestly thought the canoe was going to be caught by a wave or wind and flipped over! Of course the thought of joining Tom Thomson in a watery grave was invading my brain as well! It was creepy! I didn't have time to do anything else but paddle as hard as I could, stroke after stroke. It was exhausting! I yelled at my husband, "I can't do this anymore!!". But he was determined to keep us going and yelled back, "You're fine! You can do it!! Keep paddling!!" Then the rain hit us. Big heavy hard drops of rain just pummeling us in the strong wind. I begged him to head for a dock to the left of us, and he finally agreed "FINE head for the dock!!".  Now the waves were again sideways to the canoe (not good), but we paddled so hard to keep it going straight. It felt like my paddle might snap in two from the hard paddling against the force of the waves! That scared me even more because then we would be lost for sure. The lightening was getting closer and the wind was just howling across the water. Secondary waves were forming on top of the white caps and it felt like we weren't even moving! I think we had been paddling for about half an hour trying to get back (it had taken maybe 15 minutes to get to the rock in the first place). We finally made it to the dock and just crashed the canoe right into the bank beside it hiding under a tree and clinging to the edge of the dock. I was happy to stay there and was shaking so badly I didn't think I could do anything but hunch up in the canoe and wait out the storm. I was somewhat surprised that we were still in the canoe, and not at the bottom of the lake! We have always worn our life jackets whenever we're in the canoe, and the fact that we do made me very thankful again. We would have had no time to put them on if they were sitting in the bottom of the canoe, and most likely they would have blown right out of the canoe in such high winds. 

As we clung to the dock, we heard a man calling us from the cottage up on shore ... "do you want to come up!". He came right down to the dock to meet us and insisted we come up to his cottage to get out of the storm. It was all I could do to stand up I was shaking so badly. My husband pulled the canoe out of the water and we put it high up on shore so that it wouldn't blow away. I figured the man was just offering to let us stand under an eave to get out of the rain, but he invited us up into the screened porch and then we were brought right into the cottage. So kind of him! His wife and mother and a friend were all there and they made us feel like we were old friends. "Come in! Come in!" they all said. We introduced ourselves and were given a towel to dry off. The storm continued howling outside, but now it was forgotten as they told us to come and sit down. We then had the nicest conversation about lots of things we all seemed to love ... the park itself, certain authors, and cottages. It was a wonderful way to feel relaxed and safe. The generosity of these cottagers was immense! They told us they often have to call people off the lake during bad weather, and have had up to 15 people at once waiting out a storm on their porch. I'm sure they've made all the people they call in feel very safe indeed.

I felt somewhat ashamed that we were caught in that storm as we consider ourselves to be fairly cautious about our canoeing adventures. We've been canoeing for 20 years! But the storm came up so quickly that it caught us unawares. But having camped in the park for so many years, we also know that storms whip up very quickly there. After about an hour, the sun finally emerged again, and I suggested we should be on our way. They all came down to the dock to see us safely back into our canoe and we waved goodbye and paddled the ten minutes it took us, in now calm waters, to get to the Portage Store docks. My son was working at the store that day and waved to us from the store window when he saw us paddling past. He quickly came down to the dock to meet us and said he was really worried because he saw our truck in the parking lot, but when he saw that the canoe was gone off the top, he knew we were out on the water during the storm! We told him we had been rescued by some kind cottagers and he too was grateful for their hospitality.

The three of us then went on to the Algonquin Outfitters and I delivered my paddle to the store clerk. I was relieved that the paddle didn't get damaged in the storm! I was still in shock that the paddle and my husband and I were actually safe and not on the bottom of the lake. I had the paddle wrapped carefully in my large Hudson's Bay beach towel :) I told the girl that we had got caught in the storm and she was surprised we were out on the water. I felt so foolish about the whole thing because I only just wanted to get some good photos of the paddle. I should have paid better attention to that warning blue haze we could see ahead of the storm and suggest that we wait till the weather was maybe better. Anyway, for us it all ended well, and I couldn't be more thankful!

All the paddles entered in the contest will be auctioned off on September 29, 2017. It's apparently done on-line with some sort of fancy event at a hall in Huntsville. I've looked to see if they have posted photos of the paddles received to date, but have been unable to locate anything. Maybe after the deadline there will be something put up ahead of the auction.

Oh right ... here's the paddle ... I titled it simply "The Raven". I gave my son the practice board to hang in his dorm room ;)

I'll share more about our camping trip in future posts.

Thanks for stopping by!

PS ... "Hello!" to the folks at the Portage Store who found my blog ;)

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