Category Archives: Nature

Right to Have Children?

first reformedWe saw First Reformed on Wednesday night.  In the film a young man Michael who cares passionately about the environment commits suicide because his wife is pregnant. He feels the world is doomed because we humans have harmed its climate past the point of no return.   He doesn’t know how he will respond to his child when she will confront him someday and ask how he could have brought her into the world when he knew about the cataclysm that was coming.  

philip ettinger in first reformed

Philip Ettinger plays Michael in First Reformed. He asks priest Ernst Toller played by Ethan Hawke if God will forgive us for what we have done to the earth.

Michael kills himself to make room for his child on earth.  He leaves so his child can take his place because having a child is apparently the most damaging thing you can do when it comes to the future of the earth. Each human being’s carbon footprint is so huge that no matter how much we recycle…. and bike or walk instead of taking the car….. and buy local….. and conserve water it doesn’t nearly begin to balance the harm we do to the environment by having a child. In the film Michael leaves the world to make room for his daughter to enter it. Some people would agree he did the right thing.  This article on NPR for example Should We Be Having Kids in the Age of Climate Change addresses the very thing Michael is so concerned about. 

I understand all that logically but….. having children is way to invest in our hope that the world can still be saved.  Perhaps the next child who comes into this world will be the one who will figure out how to reverse climate change.  Perhaps they will be the one to figure out how to survive the coming cataclysm. 

baby with familyHaving children and now grandchildren has been the richest, most meaningful and most fulfilling aspect of my life but I know that is not the case for everyone and…… for some not having children is the right choice both for personal reasons and to save our earth.  I’m just glad its a choice I didn’t have to make. 

Other posts..….

Recipe for a Terrorist

What Will Our Grandchildren Think? 

Must We Live in Fear?

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Filed under Movies, Nature

Where I’m From – Moose Lake

Moose Lake- 1960-

moose lake cottage earliestI am from skinny- dipping in the dark, gin rummy games in the glow of the kerosene lamp and six cousins up on skis behind the boat

I am from horse flies and fire flies and dragon flies and mosquitoes and the wooden table with the secret drawer

I am from the time a mouse frightened Auntie Margaret in the outdoor biffy and she ran out screaming- her bum as bare as could be

dad and kaaren at cottageI am from swimming through seaweed, the lake itch, a salt- shaker for the eels, washing and drying dishes, building forts, planting pines, swamping the Pepper and catching frogs

moose lake manitobaI’m from charades, jig saw puzzles, Monopoly, the sand pile, the tire swing and my nose in a pile of Readers Digest condensed books and old National Geographics

I’m from collecting shells and driftwood at Lake of the Woods, walking to the store for ice-cream and the stranded buck we guided to shore by the antlers

moose lake cottageI am from Segne Vater, Komm Herr Jesu, Johnny Appleseed and God is Great before meals, church at the camp on Sunday morning, and the neighbor coming to ask Dad to get the fishhook out of his hand

I’m from coffee and cake at Auntie Selma’s– “walk backwards and sing if you see a bear”- from “swords into ploughshares”- “be happy”- “wear a life jacket” -­ “let’s go to the north end”– and “it will be better by the time you’re a grandma”

sunset on moose lakeI am from hot nights and canoeing down the path of the full moon, chocolate chip cookies, Dad making eggs to order with bacon, and roasted marshmallows 

I am from Grandpa dog paddling and telling us stories of his life as a prisoner and baker in the Russian army- trying to tip the boat in a bout of rebellion, loons calling, gartner snakes writhing, fish jumping and spotting the bald eagle’s nest

moose lake cottage Hanging on the wall was the cabin journal adorned with birch bark and berries- stories from a family haven- the one constant place in my life.

Other posts……..

Lord You Have Come To the Lakeshore

Wild Flower Inspiration- Moose Lake

My Nephew!  My Hero!



Filed under Family, Nature

I’m Married to a Guerrilla

My husband Dave became a guerrilla gardener last week.   According to the online definition guerrilla gardening is the act of gardening on land that you don’t have an actual legal right to.  Last summer Dave noticed a woman from our condo building working in some of the raised flower beds around our parking garage and on our street.  He stopped to chat and she told him she was a guerrilla gardener.  She enjoyed gardening and had planted things in our neighbourhood  on her own. He asked if the following spring he could put a few tomato plants in one of the beds.  

Dave checks out his tomato plants

She figured that would be just fine so on Saturday he planted his tomatoes.

Dave and me on the tractor on the tomato farm where Dave grew up

Dave grew up on a tomato farm and although he swore he’d never grow tomatoes again after working so hard on the  farm as a kid,  by the year we celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary he was digging up a patch of grass in our backyard to plant tomatoes.  He’d become nostalgic for the crop whose care and tending had occupied so much of his time during his growing up years. 

When we moved to Hong Kong and then to a condo building in Winnipeg he thought his tomato growing days were over……. that is until he discovered guerrilla gardening.  I’m looking forward to seeing how his plants do.  

A sign left by a guerrilla gardener in a flower bed on our street

Other posts………..

The Tomato Capital of Canada

They Don’t Grow Tomatoes The Way They Used To

Dorothy Garden

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Filed under Nature, Winnipeg

A Walk Down Selkirk in Lilac Time

I smelled them before I saw them.  I was walking down Selkirk Avenue yesterday, deep in thought, when all of a sudden I was overwhelmed by the heady scent of lilacs. One of the houses I was passing by had a huge lilac bush lining its front yard. It was covered in blossoms. 

selkirk street lilacsSelkirk isn’t necessarily the prettiest street in Winnipeg.  Lots of the buildings are kind of run down and old, some abandoned.  But those lilacs made the block they were on a thing of beauty.  

lilac bush selkirk streetFor some reason I was reminded of the lines from an Alfred Noyes poem. I don’t know where I learned them.  The lines just popped into my head as I inhaled that lilac smell.  I had to look up the poem when I got home so I could find out who wrote it.  The chorus of the poem goes……..

Go down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac-time;
Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London!)
And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer’s wonderland;
Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London!)


And then I thought of……….

Walk down Selkirk Street in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac-time;
Walk down Selkirk Street in lilac-time (it’s at the heart of Winnipeg)
And you shall see such blossoms there, in a place where beauty’s sometimes rare 
Walk down Selkirk Street in lilac-time (it’s at the heart of Winnipeg)

Other posts…………

The Palace Theater

The Break

I’m a Shop Girl


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Filed under Nature, Winnipeg

Linda’s Garden

linda fairfield in the plantsMeet Linda Fairfield, artist and plant lover who set out to create an illustration of every single wildflower in Manitoba.  She didn’t achieve her goal before she died last June but she left a treasure trove of absolutely lovely and unique paintings of our province’s native flowers. She called her collection  ‘The Garden.”  An exhibit of work from “The Garden”  is now on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  It was curated by Nicole Fletcher. 

fairfield prarie crocusI was drawn to Linda’s beautiful and delicate depiction of Manitoba’s floral emblem.  I have learned that sadly the prairie crocus is dwindling in numbers in our province. 

saxifrageLinda traveled the province to discover wild flowers. She illustrated a book by Karen Johnson that catalogued the wildflowers of Churchill and the Hudson’ Bay Region.

fairfield wild parsnipSome of Linda’s illustrations highlight the parts of the plants- the leaves, blooms and roots.

fair field prairie cloverIn others Linda chooses to include a sketch of the habitat where the flower grows, perhaps where she discovered it.Quite a number of Linda’s illustrations are displayed alongsidespecimens of the flower from the University of Manitoba’s collection  The Plants of Manitoba. 

fairfield golden rodThere are three special displays in the exhibit.  fairfield prickly pear cactusOne features Manitoba flowers that are edible. 

fairfield wild cucumberAnother flowers that are toxic and poisonous. 

fairfield lady slipperAnd finally one that showcases the beauty of Manitoba’s more than forty native species of orchids. 

fairfield wild roseLinda’s obituary in the Toronto Globe and Mail says Linda worked at her wildflower project over a fifty year period.  The recent donation of 233 of her illustrations to the Winnipeg Art Gallery by her family insures that Linda’s work will be treasured and appreciated by Manitobans for decades to come. 

If you are longing to see the wild flowers of Manitoba bloom and spring just isn’t coming fast enough for you head over to the Winnipeg Art Gallery and get your flower fix in Linda’s Garden. 

Other posts…….

Moose Lake’s Wild Flowers

Portugal in Bloom

Flowers of Costa Rica

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Filed under Art, Nature, WInnipeg Art Gallery

Blooming Portugal

Other posts……..


Flowers of Costa Rica

Flowers of Jamaica

Wild Flower Inspiration

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Filed under Nature, Portugal

Spending the Day with Antonio and Jose

jose and antonioMeet Antonio and Jose.  Two great guys who spent four hours introducing us to Portugal’s cork forest. antonioAntonio is a geometry teacher, wine maker and sculptor who studied art in Italy and now lives with his wife and two children in Redondo Portugal.  joseJose is an archeologist who grew up in a little village called Freixo and now lives in his wife’s grandparents’ home in Redondo. Jose will become a father in a couple of months. He is an accomplished accordion player.

peach tree

Outside the Herdade da Maroteria farmhouse/office where our tour began.

Together these two intelligent, incredibly informative and talkative fellows give tours in the Aljento area of Portugal for Herdade da Maroteira Farms a fifth generation family business.

cork farm logo

The two R’s in the farm’s logo refer to its founder Robert Reynolds.

 The farm was started in the 1800s by a British immigrant named Robert Reynolds.  It has a huge cork forest, a vineyard, an olive orchard and raises sheep.  

logo of cork trekking tour company

The current farm owner is a big fan of the children’s book Ferdinand the Bull and this is reflected in the tour company’s logo.

Tours have recently been added to their business model under a label called Cork Trekking.  

dave and simbaOur tour started with coffee in the Herdade da Maroteira Farms office. The farm owns six dogs and Simba the beagle really liked Dave. Simba has one injured foot from when she was caught in a fox trap as a pup.  

sheep block our roadOur tour had just begun when our road was blocked by part of the farm’s sheep flock. sheep herd portugalWe had to wait till the shepherd had herded them out-of-the-way. cork forestThe cork trees all grow naturally. None were planted by the owner on the 900 acres of the farm’s cork forest. The forest has been here since the 1500s. The forest is separated into 10 sections and only one section has the cork stripped from the trees in any given year. A cork tree’s bark can be harvested only once every decade. dave cork branchOnly the outer layer can be stripped off the tree.  If the inner layer is damaged the tree will die.  Here Jose’ shows Dave the outer layer of the tree that is stripped during a short period of time in spring when the temperature and humidity is exactly right. Cork stripping must be done expertly and people train for years to learn how to do it. It is a job that is physically and technically demanding but only can be done for a few weeks each year so cork strippers although paid well, need other employment to supplement their income. numberon cork treeTrees are numbered after being stripped of their cork bark. This tree was harvested in 2014 so it won’t be stripped again till 2024. 

Here are a few photos of the cork stripping process from Jose’s  Facebook page. cork stripping

cork strippers

cork strips piled upmarylou with baby corkI am beside a baby cork tree.  Most of the trees in the cork forest are 150-200 years old and the cork is not stripped from a tree till it is between 35-50 years old. Although there are cork trees in other countries, Portugal is the number one producer of cork. cork trees

Jose and Antonio told us how good cork trees are for the environment. They remove far more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than other trees. There are no chemicals used in the growing of the trees. The bark is not even stripped with modern electric tools but simple axes and knives. dave marylouJose is a practicing archeologist so he ended the tour by showing us a series of monoliths, ancient burial sites from the neolithic period. monolith cork forest portugalThese stone monolith structures could mark the spot of hundreds of buried bodies from a community. The bodies were buried in the fetal position and the structures looked like wombs with a passageway in front. monolith portugalThis monolith may have provided shelter to hermit monks in the 14th and 15th century. in a monolithIt provided a nice reprieve from the wind and rain for us too. dave with jose and antonioThe day of our tour it was almost always drizzling and sometimes pouring. It was cold and so incredibly windy at times we were sure we’d be blown over. Yet we had a great adventure, not only because we learned about cork and monoliths but mostly because talking with Jose and Antonio who are widely read, thoughtful and great conversationalists….. about politics, history, culture, agriculture, immigration, education, family history, social dynamics and economics gave us a great window into life in Portugal. 

Other posts……..

Walking in a Haunted Forest

Up in the Trees With a Man Who Knew it All

Trillium Walk


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Filed under Nature, Portugal