Category Archives: Nature

I Love Autumn

Wednesday was the first day of fall and I missed it. I love autumn. Here are a few photos from my albums along with some of my thoughts about fall.

My grandparents’ tombstone on a fall day- photographed in Winkler

Fall shows us how beautiful it can be to cherish memories of things past.

Leaf photographed in Vik, Iceland

Falling leaves give us a lesson in how to leave life gracefully but colorfully.

Photographed in Newfoundland

Autumn is like life- a colorful mosaic.

Photographed in my Exchange District neighborhood

Autumn leaves remind us that we can be beautiful at all ages and stages of life.

My Dad in his barn with his pumpkin harvest

Autumn is a time to reap nature’s rewards and enjoy them.

Photographed on Rorie Street in Winnipeg

Fall is a window through which we can look back on the summer season just past.

Photographed at a fall festival with my grandson in Saskatoon

Fall adds color to our lives.

Grasses along the Red River- photographed at the end of my street

Fall makes me think of the Bible verse-Our days on earth are like grass. Psalm 103:15

Photographed at the Penner Pumpkin Patch near Steinbach

Fill your fall with fun.

Photographed in Stephen Juba Park in Winnipeg

Fall is an invitation to slow down, sit and reflect.

October Evening by AY Jackson- photographed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Autumn is nature’s work of art.

Photographed in Quebec City

Don’t gallop through autumn, walk along enjoying the view.

Other posts………

It’s Fall

Autumn’s Beauty on the Black Sand Beaches of Newfoundland

Canada A Country For All Seasons

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There’s A Mistake In My Novel

My friend John, an amateur naturalist, said some very kind things after reading my novel Lost on the Prairie but he did point out a mistake I had made. In one chapter of the book, a pair of young boys come upon a roost of monarch butterflies. Thousands of them are covering the trees and plants in a wooded area. Joe who is a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton First Nation in South Dakota tells my hero Peter that since it is autumn the butterflies are in the midst of their journey migrating south to Mexico.

An artistic rendition of the monarch butterfly scene in my book was done by my cousin Carol Schmidt Schroeder.

Of course, the monarchs are on a journey south to Mexico, but my discerning friend John said no one would have known that in 1907 when my book takes place. The information that monarchs went to Mexico was only made public in 1976 when a Canadian zoologist Frederick Urquhart published an article in National Geographic sharing data from a monarch research project he and his wife Norah Patterson had been working on since their marriage in 1945.

Fred and Norah wanted to know where monarchs went for winter and so they began raising thousands of butterflies in their Toronto home. They experimented with all kinds of tagging methods for the monarchs until they found one that worked.

Fred and Norah Urquhart- photo from an article about them in the University of Toronto Magazine

In 1952 Norah wrote a magazine article asking for volunteers to help them with their project. Initially, twelve responded but by 1971 thousands of butterfly lovers were helping catch, tag, and release hundreds of thousands of monarchs. Nora and Fred began taking field expeditions to follow the data and it led them to the Gulf of Mexico.

A photo of Cathy Brugger appeared on the cover of the August 1976 issue of National Geographic

In 1972 Norah wrote letters to Mexican newspapers asking for help and Ken and Cathy Brugger a pair of amateur naturalists and butterfly lovers took up the search. In 1975 thanks to a tip from some Mexican loggers, they found millions of monarchs carpeting the ground and trees on the Neovolcanic Plateau about 240 miles from Mexico City.

Norah and Fred in Mexico – photo from an article written by their grandson’s wife Fiona McGlynn in Canadian Geographic

In 1976 Norah and Fred now in their sixties traveled to Mexico and hiked 10,000 feet up to the plateau to see the amazing reward of forty years of research they had done. They happened to be standing near a pine branch that crashed from the weight of the butterflies on it and in the cluster of monarchs at their feet, the Urquharts found one that bore one of their tags. It had been tagged in Minnesota before setting out on its trek to Mexico.

In August of 1976, an article about their research and discovery appeared in National Geographic and shared what Fred and Norah had discovered with the world. Since then more than 13 wintering sites for monarchs have been found and are protected as ecological reserves by the government of Mexico.

Fred and Norah with their son Doug after receiving the Order of Canada- photo from an article in Canadian Geographic by Doug’s daughter-in-law Fiona McGlynn

Fred and Norah Urquhart were given the Order of Canada in 1998 for their amazing discovery. Of course, Indigenous people in Mexico had known about the butterfly roosts for thousands of years.

In 2012 a movie called Flight of the Butterflies premiered starring Gordon Pinsent and Patricia Phillips as Fred and Norah.

So how could Joe the young boy in my story have known the butterflies were going to Mexico in 1907 if that fact wasn’t made public till 1976? Well, he probably couldn’t have.

Although I did tons of research for my book and my editor was great at helping me find historical errors we didn’t catch them all. My book has a mistake in it but I am almost glad it does because it led me to do all the research for this post and learn about Fred and Norah Urquhart, two Canadians I’d never heard of before.

I am sure I will find other mistakes as my book reaches a wider audience of discerning readers and I’m excited about what I might learn from those mistakes. Thanks, John for pointing this one out.

Other posts…………

Butterfly Wonderland

Butterflies in Nunavut?

Launching A Book

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Filed under Lost on the Prairie, Nature

Bring Your Bear Bells

On Wednesday morning as we set off on a little mini-vacation to Buffalo Point we received this text from friends we planned to visit at their cottage later that afternoon. “Bring your bear bells.”

On our drive, we heard a news report about the unusual number of bear and human interactions this summer in Manitoba. One of the recommendations in the news report was to make noise as you walk so bears know you are coming. That helped us understand our friend’s joking suggestion we bring bear bells.

Our first stop was the beautiful Lake of the Sand Hills Golf Course where Dave and I played 18 holes in near-perfect conditions.

Since we had been hearing about bears I asked Dave to take a photo of me at the hole called Black Bear.

On another hole as we were waiting for our turn to tee off, the course marshall stopped to chat and said there were about thirty-five bears in the area and quite a number had been spotted on the course.

He said on one hole near the lake a mother bear and her cub had spent the better part of a day up a tree gathering acorns. He told us not to be worried, however. Bears prefer to stay away from people and generally aren’t dangerous.

We finished the round without spotting a single bear.

Later we had a lovely time at our friends’ cottage enjoying drinks on their deck, dinner, and visiting around a campfire but we saw nary a bear, although our friends told us they had certainly seen them during their time at the cottage. They showed us a photo of a mother and her cubs parading across their property.

The only wildlife we saw were the deer that routinely visited the yard and seemed to feel right at home there.

As it turned out we were fine even though we hadn’t brought our bear bells.

Other posts……..

A Saskatchewan Great Plains Grizzly Lands Up In Scotland

Golfing At An Old Hudsons Bay Outpost

Where I’m From- Moose Lake

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Filed under manitoba, Nature

Her Last Visit

In August of 2011, my whole family was out at our cottage at Moose Lake. Dave and I had just moved back to Manitoba after living in Hong Kong for six years and my siblings and our families congregated at the lakeside cabin we had been coming to every summer for our whole lives.

Mom enjoying the morning with her only granddaughter

My mother was in a wheelchair but she was determined to join us and it was marvelous to see the pleasure she took in visiting with her children and grandchildren, sharing meals with them, and watching them have fun out on the lake tubing, skiing and sailing.

Mom and Dad and my husband Dave on the deck of the cottage that has belonged to three generations of our family

Over nearly fifty years my parents had invested so much time and money in the cottage and seeing her whole family there having such a good experience must have felt rewarding for Mom. She must also have been happy that my brother Mark and his wife Kathy now owned the cottage and were taking such excellent care of it so she knew it would remain in the family

Mom loved puzzling year-round and was happy a puzzle was on the go at the cottage
Mom visits with our daughter-in-law. What Mom didn’t know just yet, but would soon be overyjoyed to learn, was that in nine months she was going to become a great- grandmother when our son and his wife would have their first child.

Our second day at the cottage Mom decided that she would like to go for a ride in the boat. This was no small feat to manage. Her wheelchair couldn’t really be pushed over the grass and rocks that led down to the dock. So her grandsons and son-in-law decided to carry her there.

It took another cooperative effort and lots of planning and negotiating to get her safely into the boat, but we did, and then she was off for a ride around the lake with her son at the wheel, her husband on one side and her grandson on the other.

I took this photo of Mom’s empty wheelchair on the dock just after the boat pulled away.

We didn’t know at the time that it would be Mom’s last boat ride. We didn’t know that this would be her last visit to the lake.

Mom died two years later. She had requested we sing the hymn Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore at her funeral. I think that was because of all the happy memories she had made with her family at the lake.

One verse of the song and its chorus particularly apply to my Mom.

You need my hands, full of caring
through my labors to give others rest,
and constant love that keeps on loving.

O Lord, with your eyes you have searched me,
and while smiling have spoken my name;
now my boat’s left on the shoreline behind me;
by your side I will seek other seas.

Other posts………..

Burgers and Blokus

What Next? Tubing

Lord You Have Come to the Lakeshore

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My Novel As A Murder Weapon

One of the readers of my novel sent me this photo recently.

The photo was accompanied by this message.

Discovered that your book is highly effective at killing Pine Bark Beetles who are the most unwelcome guests in my cabin…I just grabbed the closest thing to me and squashed the little devil!!

This photo of a forest in California shows the kind of damage the pine bark beetle can do.

Apparently, thanks to climate change bark beetles are moving across the country after having a devastating impact on pines in British Columbia. They are now advancing through Canada’s boreal forests and scientists are trying to figure out how to lessen their effect on forest ecology.

Although I hadn’t envisioned my book as a tool for killing insects I do know that the folks who sent the photo hadn’t just used my book as a murder weapon. They had also read my book and enjoyed it because they had told me so in an earlier phone call.

They say you never know what will happen with your book after it is published. How true!

Other posts……….

My First Interview

My Novel in the Great Outdoors

Launching A Book

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Filed under Lost on the Prairie, Nature

The Second Thing I Love About Our New Governor-General

Yesterday I wrote about the first thing I love about Canada’s new Governor-General Mary Simon. Here is the second thing I LOVE about her. She was a founding board member and is now a board member emeritus of Oceans North! A couple of years ago I gave a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to a group of Oceans North scientists who were meeting in the city. That was my introduction to their important work.

Oceans North is evaluating how ship traffic impacts the walrus populations that northern communities depend on for food- Photo from Oceans North Facebook page

In partnership and consultation with local Indigenous communities, the Oceans North scientists are trying to preserve marine and other animal life in Canada’s Arctic. Spend a little time on their website and you will discover how they are helping local lobster boat operators find more sustainable sources of bait, evaluating how ship traffic impacts the walrus populations that many northern communities still rely on for food, and creating music videos with northern school kids to celebrate a government decision to protect cold-water corals.

Testing water for plastics content- Photo from Oceans North Facebook page

They are teaching communities how to test the ocean for plastic content, studying how whale-watching boats impact beluga populations, figuring out how increased ocean traffic impacts the way narwhals communicate, helping local communities conduct the caribou hunt in a way that preserves the herd, and examining the environmental implications of deep-sea mining.

Photo of Mary Simon from the Board Member page of Oceans North

Mary Simon our new governor-general was instrumental in establishing Oceans North because she felt it was vital to recognize the important role local northern communities play in the conservation of marine animal habitats in the Arctic and to understand how the health, wellness, and prosperity of those communities effects environmental stewardship. Governor-General Simon says that Arctic conservation is inexplicably tied to building and maintaining healthy communities. Protection projects must consider how they can accommodate and support an indigenous vision of a landscape that works for them.

I am sure as she continues her term in office there will be other things I will come to admire about our new Governor-General but I already appreciate her recognition of her heritage in the way she chose to dress for her installation and the way she is supporting the communities of the north as they partner with scientists who are trying to preserve the unique environment of Canada’s north.

The fact that she helped to found Oceans North is the second thing I love about our new Governor-General.

Other posts………..

Seal River Crossing

So Tiny

What’s an Amauti?

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The Girl Who Loved Giraffes

I was smitten with the story of Canadian giraffologist Anne Innis Dagg after I saw the movie The Woman Who Loves Giraffes. I wrote a blog post about how the film inspired and moved me. So when I heard there was a new children’s book about Anne Innis Dagg called The Girl Who Loved Giraffes I was so excited. Now Anne’s story would be accessible to a younger generation of Canadians.

I was even more excited when I heard that Kathy Stinson a Canadian children’s writer with a long and successful career had written The Girl Who Loved Giraffes. Kathy Stinson classics were favourites in my sons’ book collections when they were young as well as in the libraries of the elementary schools where I served as a teacher. At one point I probably could have recited any number of Kathy Stinson’s books by heart, because I had read them so often.

So when CANSCAIP (the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers) of which I am a member began to advertise the launch of The Girl Who Loved Giraffes by Kathy Stinson I signed up immediately.

The launch was terrific because not only did we get to hear from Kathy Stinson the author, but also from Anne Innis Dagg herself. I also enjoyed listening to Francois Thisdale talk about how he created such beautiful illustrations for the book. He put so many details into each drawing.

He explained for example that in this one where Anne sees a giraffe for the first time at the Brookfield Zoo he added a vintage ticket for the zoo and the numbers on the ticket are Anne’s birthdate.

Anne Innis Daag

One of my favorite things about The Girl Who Loved Giraffes is that it is really two books in one. First of all, we can read Anne’s story about how she went to Africa to study giraffes and became one of the world’s foremost experts on the animal only to be rejected for teaching positions at Canadian universities because she was a woman.

A gIraffe I photographed at the Taronga Zoo in Australia

But… we also learn all kinds of interesting things about giraffes in the notes on each page. Did you know a giraffe’s intestines are as long as a football field or that they eat 90 different kinds of leaves?

I can hardly wait to share The Girl Who Loved Giraffes with my grandchildren. It is a top-notch autobiography- a fascinating compendium of information about giraffes and it contains many beautiful works of art.

Other posts………….

Where Are the Women?

The Matilda Effect

Show Us Where You Live Humpback

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Nature

Show Us Where You Live, Humpback

“A celebration of the wonder of whales and the connections we share with them” are the words on the back of a beautiful new picture book for young children called Show Us Where You Live Humpback by Beryl Young.

A mother and child see a humpback whale with her calf as they walk along the ocean and a lyrical story begins to unfold where the lives of the two children, whale and human are described and compared. As the baby whale grows and learns so does the child.

Photo of a page from Show Us Where You Live Humpback by Beryl Young and Sakika Kikuchi published by Greystone Kids

Show Us Where You Live Humpback is a feast for the eye and ear. Illustrator Sakika Kikuchi has created gorgeous images of the whales under the sea all awash in different shades of blue while the cadence of Beryl Young’s text brings to mind the lapping of rolling waves on the shore.

I loved the page where the whale is shooting a plume of spray out from its blowhole and the reader is invited to make the accompanying sounds- Whoosh- Fwissh- Wow! This is contrasted with lively colourful illustrations of the child in the story blowing out birthday candles, blowing bubbles and blowing away the white fuzz of a dandelion.

There’s lots to learn about humpback whales from the text in the story itself and in a short information piece included at the end of the book which compares the knobs on a humpback’s head to the bumps on a dill pickle and the size of the baby whale to a compact car.

Author Beryl Young

Beryl Young the author of Show Us Where You Live Humpback has written all kinds of books for children including biographies and middle-grade fiction. This is her second picture book. Illustrator Sakika Kikuchi has a degree in children’s book illustration from Cambridge University and lives in Japan. This is her first picture book.

Illustration by Sakika Kikuchi from the book Show Us Where You Live Humpback

The book is published by Greystone Kids which specializes in nature books for children. At a conference in May, I listened to a presentation by Sara Gillingham who is a consulting creative director for Greystone and she talked about working towards more inclusivity in the visuals in children’s books. I could appreciate that in Show Us Where You Live Humpback where the illustrations depict the child in a way that leaves gender and ethnicity open to suggestion.

I have become friends with author Beryl Young through our connection with Heritage House. They published my novel Lost on the Prairie and have also published one of Beryl’s novels, Miles to Go.

I have never met Beryl in person but am hoping to rectify that with an autumn trip to British Columbia where I’d also like to go on a whale watching tour to meet the fascinating creatures featured in Beryl’s beautiful book.

Other posts……

What An Inspiration

Two Breathtakingly Beautiful Books

A Book I’ve Loved For Fifty Years

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Filed under Books, Childhood, Nature

10 Reasons Green Exercise Is Good For You

I have been a regular member of a gym for most of my adult life. Of course, since the pandemic started I have had to change my approach to fitness and almost all of my exercise takes place outdoors.

There are lots of advantages to what is known as green fitness although here in Manitoba it might have to be called white fitness for at least six months of the year.

What is green fitness?

Various sources define it as…….. exercise that takes place in a natural outdoor environment or the act of being physically active in a natural setting.

According to the experts, outdoor fitness has better results than indoor fitness when it comes to………

Restful sleep

Reduction of stress and anxiety

Sense of well- being

Cognitive performance

Cancer risk

Healthy blood pressure

Self- esteem

Bone strength

Healthy body weight

Motivation

Looking at that long list of benefits I am wondering if I should ever go back to the gym even once the pandemic is over.

Other posts………….

Into the Wilds of Winnipeg

Hiking the Virgin

Walking on the Seine

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Filed under Health, Nature

The Trees of Rideau Hall

When Prince William and his wife Kate visited Canada in 2011 they planted a hemlock tree on the grounds of Rideau Hall, the home of Canada’s Governor-General in Ottawa. It is a tradition that when someone famous visits Rideau Hall they plant a tree.  On our visit to Ottawa, we took a tour of Rideau Hall and the park surrounding it and I made some notes about the trees I saw.

There are 150 trees planted by famous visitors on the Rideau Hall grounds.  Many of the trees have grown large and their boughs stretch wide and high.

One thing I noticed was many of the people who planted the trees at Rideau Hall had made a positive difference in our world. 

There is a brass marker at the base of each tree telling you who planted it, when it was planted, as well as what kind of tree it is.

I saw a sugar maple planted by Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president. The anti-apartheid activist spent twenty- seven years in prison and became a worldwide symbol of hope to those fighting for freedom and equality.

Diana, Princess of Wales has a tree in Rideau Hall Park. This popular British royal used her notoriety to draw the attention of the world to the needs of people with AIDS and the victims of land mines.

In July of 2011, when William her son and his wife Kate visited Rideau Hall, they stopped for a few moments of silence beside the tree Diana had planted, just after planting their own tree.  Following in the footsteps of Diana’s dedication to public service the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have established a foundation that promotes mental health and wellness.  

John F. Kennedy planted a flourishing red oak tree. Kennedy inspired the establishment of the United States Peace Corps. The organization has sent 200,000 volunteers to 140 countries to help those in need.

When Kofi Annan visited Canada Adrienne Clarkson was the Governor-General living at Rideau Hall.

There’s a tree planted by  Kofi Annan of Ghana, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations.  He won the Nobel Prize for his efforts to bring peace to conflicts in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Nigeria, Libya, East Timor and the Middle East.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko greet Governor General Michaelle Jean at Rideau Hall before planting their tree

Japan’s Emperor Akihito has a tree at Rideau Hall. In 2011 after a tsunami devastated his country he did something no Japanese royal has ever done before. He made a live television appearance to talk to his people to reassure them and give them hope and then he and his wife visited shelters for storm refugees. 

Many of the famous people who have planted trees at Rideau Hall have used their lives to serve others, and make a difference in the world. 

 Other posts……..

The Beginning And End of Life

I Sat in The Speaker’s Chair

Canada A Country For All Seasons

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