Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Late October Skies

One of my favourite Robert Frost poems I thought I would share with you titled Fire and Ice. It accompanies a small watercolour I did this morning in class. The sight of the bare trees awaiting the cold of winter, a hint of colour still left in the hills of the northern Appalachians and shorter days made me think of how we will soon go into hibernation...

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
-Robert Frost

Till later...`gws

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Marie and I had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year in Montreal with Phil, Fer, Lara and Chad. Fer treated us all to a chicken and duck dinner, Lara and Chad arriving later from their weekend in Vermont.

That's a nice view of Montreal you get as you cross over the Champlain Bridge.

Marie and I had spent the previous few days at the cabin as we finished putting up the vapor barrier inside and prepared the place for winter - packing up all the cans and food we didn't want to freeze, removing the water barrel from beneath the downspout and running up the van one last time.

The weather was great, cool at night but sunny during the day. We walked up the other side of the mountain and got some great views of Mt Megantic and the hills rolling off into New Hampshire. That's a picture of Marie on top of our new well we had dug last month - see previous blog for the details! We'll be going back next month to pick up the larch/tamarack flooring we ordered from a local mill - it's a little more durable than pine. Hopefully the weather will still be nice! We also took a day trip into Maine and drove down to a little town called Stark, just north of Farmington, to check out a company that specializes in "Off-Grid" power production - solar power systems. As this will be our source of electricity we wanted to compare prices and see just how viable this sort of system will be for the cabin and the house. It's expensive but do-able for our northern location. The drive from the border along SR 27 is one of the most beautiful drives one can possibly find anywhere and in the fall, absolutely spectacular.

Earlier in the month we attended the opening of the Selections 2009 at the Shenkman Art Gallery in Orleans where I have the painting I had mentioned in my last blog.
I have entered three other paintings for the Ottawa School of Art Alumni show, to take place later this month as well. I am busy at the Art School most days and feel very comfortable working in watercolours for the very first time. I am doing one now I started this weekend - it's a view of one of the roads in the Domaine, near our cabin. As you can see by the photo I have this thing for birch trees!

In December we are off to Mont Tremblant Resort for a week - that's where Liam Neeson's wife, actress Natasha Richardson, suffered a fatal head injury in a skiing accident earlier this year... Must run but will leave you with some more pix of the area - this is a view from chemin Grand Duc, about a 15 minute walk from our place. And some photos of the woods/rocks on our property. Till later, have a great week and stay healthy! gws

Thursday, October 1, 2009

2009 Summer Memories

Listen! The wind is rising,and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, it's now time for October eves!... And just like that we slip into another month, the temperatures dip and frost is suddenly forecast. But it was a great summer and the best is yet to come - the woods will soon burst in wild explosions of red, yellow and orange! Here in the north we often feel sorry for those folk in the warmer regions who pass each month in a blur of greens and browns, unaware of the beautiful changes taking place up here, the air fresher and the night sky now crystal clear. Just a reminder this is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And as it's the first week of Hocktober the NHL has officially opened for the 2009-2010 season. Word on the street is that many Toronto Maple Leaf fans are signing up to be put into a biostasis state after they die so they can be maintained at cryogenic temperatures. They can then be brought back to life at some time in the distant future when Toronto finally wins a Cup... OK that's my one dig at the Laffs for the year... But before we think cool as in ice and frosty nights let's review the past three months!

After Lyn's visit in June, I went out to the property for a week with Muffy to keep me company as I had do some more work on the cabin and to plant some more shrubbery. ("We want....a shrubbery!!!" - Monty Python's Knights who say Ni). At the Home Depot in Sherbrooke I picked up a much needed 5 Ft. x 7 Ft. utility trailer with 15 in. full sides and a load retention front gate to haul plants, building materiel, soil, rocks etc. And it's made in Canada (!)by Marathon.
I filled it up with all the pieces of guttering I was planning to install along the west side of the cabin so we can collect rainwater in our 200 litre rainbarrel, as well as 16 sheets of rigid interior insulation for the inside roof. We have decided to finish up to the roof peak inside with the same tongue and groove pine that is going on the walls, and not have a flat ceiling. I also installed sixteen 4" round vents in the soffets on both sides. As we now have the new Honda generator mentioned in the previous blog that we got in Maine I can now charge my batteries on my drill! It's their newest model, EU3000i Handi, weighs only 77 lbs and is extremely quiet. Can you believe less than normal conversation!

Christina finally came up one weekend in the middle of July and spent her time exploring and enjoying a break from the city. As it was her first time at the property we took her down to the lake and wore her out hiking up our mountain. The weather was beautiful and she hated to leave!

Marie and I spent the weekend of the 24th July visiting Phil and Fernanda in Montreal.
It was then we got the news that Fer was pregnant! Wow! I'm going to be a grandaddy!!! Of course Marie and I were thrilled at the news and rejoiced with Phil and Fer. He will be a great Dad no doubt and I figure he will do everything by the book! He has started a web site to follow Fer's progress and you can check it out at www.pfandbaby.com. The next day we all went to the Just For Laughs Gala Performance show at Theatre St Denis, hosted that night by John Cleese, and had a great time. Saw some pretty funny acts - John Pinette and Louis C.K. were particularily good.
Cleese was a bit long in the tooth and not as funny as he used to be. But I'll always remember him for Fawlty Towers where he shone, and of course his time with Monty Python!

In August Fernanda's brother Cesar and cousin Fero from Mexico were up in Canada visiting Montreal.She and Phil brought them to Ottawa and introduced us. We all went out to Phil's favourite watering hole, Local Heroes, for wings and ribs and to celebrate Fer's birthday. Cesar practises law in Mexico City and Fero is a popular singer who has an album out entitled Efuvios. He gave me a copy before they left and I liked it immediately. Fero´s influences on this CD are as diverse as the music he writes and performs, going from rock to Mexican traditional and Latin rhythms. He does a fabulous version of one of my favourite songs, the Strangler's Always the Sun in Spanish and in English. He's playing in New York City this weekend - check his bio out at www.lavitrina.com

Later that week Marie and I flew down to Toronto for a Moody Blues concert at Ontario Place. Rich joined us for an unforgettable evening. It was the first time I had seen the Moodies(I've been a fan since 1964)and have all their albums! It was a real treat for Marie to finally see her nephews Jack and little Richie for the first time as well! And we were both glad to see how happy Hayley was since moving in with Dad!

We spent the next weekend out at the property putting up an outhouse on the side of the cabin. It's actually a 5x7 shed we'll use for the toilet and shower to give us more living space in the cabin.
As it's almost impossible to dig into the rock there we opted for a composting toilet. It's a Swedish Separett Villa 9210 - both battery and solar power as we're off the grid, as you know. After a lot of research we chose the Separett toilet as it needs neither water to flush with, nor expensive sewage treatment, which is a great benefit to our environment. Plus it separates the liquids from the solids which makes it possible to recycle the waste back to nature as an organic fertilizer. And it's odorless!

Mario, Emily and the kids drove up from Boston to visit that same weekend we were at the cabin and stayed for five days. They weren't far - in a B&B just outside the Domaine. I know they were glad to escape the rain and fog that had plagued the east coast all summer - our weather was still hot and dry. Adam took advantage of the chance to practise his woodlore and keep the fire stoked while Zoe read
and went with Marie for walks in the woods. It was nice to see Marie and Mario together again.

At the end of the month I flew down to Florida for a week to visit with Mom who had been in hospital with heart problems. Marie drove me to Plattsburgh, NY and I caught a flight to St Pete. Mom was recovering very well, was home by the time I got there, and looked good! I had a chance to see her every day and I know she was glad to hear me drive up each morning. Dad was as busy as ever, still working on the bathroom Don and Shawn had helped renovate. Just recently he had to replace his old water pump in the shed out back and he proudly showed me this latest purchase. John and I dragged out his generator one afternoon while him and Dee were up and ran it with a load - Mom did a laundry using it and it worked perfectly. I also had a chance to visit with Dee and John and their new baby Shelly, saw Tyler one afternoon at the pool
and kept busy doing some gardening with Lyn where I damn near crippled myself. Shawn dropped by with his new Ram truck and most evenings him and I spent shooting the bull with Don. As always it was a treat to see the family again and glad I had the chance. Cheers Mom!

After flying back to Plattsburgh on Allegent ( we flew right over NY City and I was treated to a fabulous view ) Marie picked me up and we drove straight north to Montreal on Interstate 87 - about an hour - and spent the night at Phil's.

The next morning we accompanied him and Fer to the hospital for her second ultrasound. Everything was normal and we actually saw the little guy/girl moving about! If it's anything like Phil was when he was developing they are going to have an active baby! Right after we left the hospital we all squeezed into our Dakota and headed out to the property as planned for a few days. It was still warm and dry and we decided to take a hike up to the Saddle the next day. It was a good hour and a bit haul over stones and steep ravines and we were concerned it might be too much for Fernanda in her condition but she bravely soldiered on and we made it to the top where we had lunch. We followed the border along the top, getting some grand views of Quebec, New Hampshire and Maine.

Phil decided to take his truck back to Montreal with him when they left as he now needs a vehicle for work. He is employed as a telephone/ethernet line tech, doing what he was doing for Telus in Alberta, still going to school, and trying any number of other projects. Check out www.oemmontreal.ca! And Fernanda is still working at Restaurant Tamales till she takes her maternity leave.

The first part of September Rich took the train up to Ottawa from Georgetown and he and I headed out to the property for five days. The weather was gorgeous, hot, dry and without any humidity. As school had started we had the mountain to ourselves and even went swimming in the lake at the bottom of the hill. Rich helped me plant a few more trees
and we finished installing the Roxul insulation and a vapor barrier onto the cabin walls. He stayed in the van and Muffy was obliging enough to keep him company at night!

Serge Bernier, the fellow that we had contracted to dig our well dropped in the last day we were there to check out the location to drill and to bring his trucks in so he and his crew could start the following week. First thing was to find water so a dowsing rod was found in the woods and presto we had the site.

Both me and Rich tried it but to no avail. We watched Serge very closely and it sure seemed the rod twitched and forced his hands down on it's own. Welcome to the 21st century, Quebec style! The proof will be in the pudding when we go back this week and check out what they did. So..., everything was going according to plan until they tried to get the first truck (24 tons) up our road to the where the house will be built. After a few charges up it was determined the road was too soft and too steep for the trucks. Next they tried pulling them up with a tractor. No luck. They decided to bring in the big guns - an industrial backhoe! After 4 hours of swearing, sweating and tearing up the road they finally got them into position.

By then it was dark but all was ready for Monday. (Rich and I couldn't hang around for that though as he wanted to get to the US Embassy in Ottawa and I had to begin school. I had signed up for five art classes at the Ottawa School of Art again and was looking forward to it. Wednesday nights Marie and I had a class together - life drawing open workshop with models). Rich and I stopped off in Montreal on the way back to say hi to Phil and Lara - she is still working at Passport Canada, trying to make the big sell with her real estate, and taking French classes three nights a week. We were lucky to catch her!
Since he has returned to Georgetown, Shawn and Jamie have bought their own home and finally moved out. It will be a big change for sure for everyone! I am back at school, Marie busy as ever at Public Safety and life goes on. I have two shows this month, having entered some paintings I did this past year and busy learning how to paint in watercolours. Check out www.artsoe.ca. Go to Selections 2009. Here is the piece for that show:

Hope I didn't bore too many of you and please come back and check out the blog from time to time! As you can see it has a new look - the extras that really cluttered the page are all gone. I think it looks better. Till later have a wonderful fall and Happy Thanksgiving!! gws