Category Archives: Nature

The Long Night Moon

We were at a banquet at the Winnipeg Convention Centre on Friday night and the moon looked lovely through the window against the backdrop of the interesting honeycomb ceiling design of the hall that was reflected outside. The actual full moon had been just the night before but this moon was pretty spectacular too.

Full Moon Before Yule illustration from the Old Farmer’s Almanac

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the December full moon is also called the Cold Moon coming as it does in one of the chillier times of the year. It is also called the Moon Before Yule because it is the last full moon before Christmas.  According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the indigenous name for the December full moon is The Long Night Moon since it happens in the month of the winter solstice when we have the longest night of the year.

This year the Moon Before Yule happened on Friday the 13th which added an air of mystery to it. I read a couple of articles by astrologers who suggest that wishing on a full moon is very effective.  I made a wish on the moon last weekend.  I’m hoping it comes true. 

Other posts……..

Blue Moon

Sedna is a Planet

Thinking About Light

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Down on the Farm

In her book, Braiding Sweetgrass botany professor Robin Kimmerer talks about how surprised she was when she first starting teaching to discover how little experience most of her university students had spending time outdoors in rural settings.  They hadn’t ever explored a farm to see where their food came from.  They hadn’t been in a garden.  They hadn’t waded in a pond or climbed a tree.  Now at the start of her university courses, she takes her students on expeditions to make sure they experience those things first hand. While looking through some old photographs I realized that unlike Robin’s students, my sons and their cousins were blessed to have a really great introduction to living close to the land thanks to their grandparents.  My Mom and Dad maintained a large hobby farm just outside of Steinbach for several decades. It afforded their grandchildren all kinds of good experiences learning about where their food came from and enjoying the great outdoors.


Other posts………

My Grandparents’ Farm

My Annual Moose Lake Fix 



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Two Squares of Toilet Paper

When I was a child I remember playing at the home of a friend whose mother was pretty thrifty, If she saw you headed to the bathroom she would sing out, “Remember only two squares. Toilet paper is expensive.”  She wanted to remind us to limit our use of toilet paper to two squares per washroom visit to save money.  

Did you know the average North American uses almost ten squares of toilet paper for every washroom visit, not the two my friends’ mother recommended? That amounts to nearly 60 sheets of toilet paper a day, or about a 100 rolls a year.

Graphic from the Brondall website

Turns out toilet paper isn’t only expensive financially it’s expensive environmentally too. This article claims that our toilet paper use damages the environment more than driving a large SUV.  Apparently toilet paper manufacturers are using virtually no recycled material in their products and as a result, boreal forests are being clear cut to make toilet paper. And then, of course, there is all the water used to make the pulp into paper, the carbon footprint of the vehicles used to transport the trees to the factory and then to transport the toilet paper rolls to the store and don’t forget those rolls come in plastic packaging we throw away along with the empty roll. Much of the chlorine used to bleach the paper to its white colour ends up in local water sources. 

Did you know that 75% of the world’s population does not use toilet paper? There are lots of alternatives but the most practical seems to be a bidet.  They haven’t caught on here in North America but 81% of Japanese homes have them as do 97% of Italian homes.   They take care of most of the stuff you use toilet paper to cleanse away. This article in a business journal explains why bidets are cheaper in the long run, are more hygenic, and much more environmentally friendly. 

I took a photo of this bidet/toilet I used in Kyoto Japan that not only washed your bum but dried it as well. Check out the control panel on the handle for cleansing and flushing options.

We are shopping for new toilets. How can you tell?  

Other posts…………

Gender-Neutral Washrooms

The Eatons Catalogue- Toilet Paper and Shin Pads

Pop Up Toilet

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Oceans North

Last week I gave a tour of the Kent Monkman exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to a group of scientists who were having their annual meeting here in Winnipeg.  I had never heard of their organization Oceans North before, but during our tour, they told me a bit about it, and I was so intrigued I went online later to explore their website.

Photo from Oceans North Facebook page

I learned Oceans North is a non-profit organization that works at fostering scientific and community-based conservation in the Arctic regions of Canada and Greenland. They are addressing the massive environmental change happening in Canada’s north. I looked up the profiles of the scientists who were on my tour and discovered more about the fascinating research they are doing. I was particularly impressed with the way they are working in close partnership with the indigenous communities in the north, acknowledging their experience and expertise. I spent a fair bit of time browsing the interesting articles on Floe Edge the Oceans North blog.  

Photo from Oceans North Facebook page

I read about a study being done to look at the way ship traffic impacts walrus populations and how dependent some Inuit communities still are on the walrus for food.

Photo from Oceans North Facebook page

Two of the scientists on my tour had done workshops with Inuit communities helping them learn about the alarming percentage of plastics in Arctic waters and teaching the local people how to test the water for pollution from plastics.

One of the women on my tour had written an article about how increased ocean traffic is changing the way narwhals communicate with one another.

Photo from Oceans North Facebook page

I learned about a research project to study how whale-watching boats impact beluga whale populations in the Churchill River.  

I found out that wildlife management experts are tapping into the knowledge of local hunters to ensure better management of marine wildlife in Greenland.

Coldwater coral from the Oceans North Facebook page

I loved the story of Iqaluit school children helping to produce a music video celebrating the fact that the federal government had closed more than 65,000 square kilometres of the waters off eastern Nunavut and Nunatsiavut in order to protect cold-water corals and sponges.  I had no idea there even were corals in Arctic waters. 

I am so glad I was introduced to the work of Oceans North.  Although I was sad to learn that our Arctic regions are in environmental peril I was also happy to learn that there is a large group of dedicated scientists working together with local indigenous communities to address this environmental change. I have subscribed to the Oceans North newsletter so I can keep up to date on the important work they are doing. 

One of the reasons I love my job at the art gallery is because it opens up many opportunities for learning about new things like the important work of Oceans North . 

Other posts………

What’s an Amauti? 

Swimming with the Manatees

Inuit Art Isn’t Just Soapstone Carvings

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Moose on the Move

On our recent drive to Saskatoon, we spotted these four moose in a farmer’s field and I tried to take a photo of them through the car window.  I thought moose lived in the forest so it was quite something to see them out on the open prairie. I found out from an article by Jessica Faulds that while moose do prefer the cover of trees and the proximity of lakes, biologists have noticed more and more moose are leaving forested areas closer to the Rocky Mountains to live on the prairies. The reason is food.  And fall is an especially good time for them to migrate to the prairie because they can find grain that is spilt during and after the harvest. Apparently, moose used to shy away from the prairie because of predators like grizzly bears but the bears have virtually disappeared and increased rainfall in Saskatchewan has created more of the marshy areas moose prefer.  Wildlife officials say that some moose have even become bold enough to enter prairie cities and warn that the huge animals can easily injure a person if spooked. Both the moose and people on the prairies will have to adapt as changes in the environment cause changes in the habitat of the moose. My younger son’s birthday is today and coincidentally at his birthday celebration on Sunday night, I gave him a card with this illustration by the delightful Saskatchewan artist Miriam Korner.  I heard her speak at a conference I attended.  The card shows the moose in its natural habitat but living in harmony with the people nearby.  

Other posts……….

Where I’m From – Moose Lake

Early Morning Walk At Moose Lake

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The Consolation of Water Lilies

Clouds reflected in the water in a pond full of water lilies in the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Winnipeg

In her beautifully written book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer has a chapter about water lilies. Kimmerer is a botany professor but she is also a poignant writer and has this incredibly wise and wonderful way of linking our lives to those of the plant world.

She tells the story of her two daughters leaving home.  She has just visited the older one who is attending university in a distant state and now she is driving the youngest daughter to the college she will attend.  Robin recalls all the responsibilities she had as a mother keeping a household running for her two daughters and supporting them in their various endeavours. There were constant demands on her to give and give and give.  Yet she is grieving deeply as she drives away after dropping off her daughter at her dormitory.  Robin decides to go canoeing and the time she spends in nature feeds her and restores her. Just as she has been giving to her daughters for so many years now nature is giving to her.

Water lily in a cenote in Mexico where I went swimming

Robin talks in particular about the water lilies she encounters canoeing and how they look so beautiful. She knows as a botanist that water lilies get their air and light on the surface of the water but they are anchored below by a rhizome as thick as your wrist and so strong it is almost impossible to break. Robin also describes in delicate and lovely language how the old leaves of a water lily and the new ones are inextricably linked and how they help one another survive. 

Robin is wise enough to let her readers come to their own conclusions but her words reminded me so much of my parenting experience.  How we hope when our children leave home we have given them a strong enough anchor as they seek the things that will bring air and light to their own lives.  How we hope that the bond we have with our children will keep us linked together albeit in constantly new and changing ways and that as our lives move forward we will continue to help one another survive and thrive in this world.  

This chapter in Robin’s book is entitled The Consolation of Water Lilies.  She named it perfectly. 

Other posts………….

Grateful for Mom’s Support

Captain Fantastic

Plants That Talked to Me

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I Don’t Want to Outlive the Trees

On Sunday afternoon I went to hear the boys choir my daughter-in-law conducts perform in a concert called Autumn Kaleidoscope. One of the pieces they sang was The Sun is Mine by Laura Hawley.  The words come from a poem by Robert Hogg and Robert Priest.  It is a lovely piece of poetry but it has a sad message.  Children are acknowledging their worry that the trees of the forest may die before they do. They are hoping the trees will go on for generations but they aren’t sure they will.  They sing, “I don’t want to outlive the trees.”

The song reminded me that in the last few weeks it has been teenagers and children who have been protesting and demanding our attention about the need for climate change in the world. We need to listen to their voices.

The Sun is Mine by Robert Hogg and Robert Priest

The sun is mine
and the trees are mine
the light breeze is mine
and the birds that inhabit the air are mine
their voices on the wind are in my ear
I am young and I want to live to be old
and I don’t want to outlive these trees – this forest

When my last song is gone
I want these same trees to be singing on – newer green songs
for generations to come
So let me be old, grow to be ancient
to come as an elder before these same temple-green sentinels
with my aged limbs
and still, know a wonder
that will outlast me.

Other posts………..

The Religion of Trees


Imitating Emily

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