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A Treasure Close to Home

I’ve driven past the Brueckner Rhododendron Gardens, located just west of Port Credit, countless times without ever stopping. Oh I’ve thought about stopping and made vague plans to visit, but until today I didn’t actually make the effort to do so. This morning, after a particularly trying time attempting to “curbside pick-up” some panels for mosaic projects from the Home Depot, I headed directly over there for a relaxing and peaceful walk.

Joseph B. Brueckner was an avid amateur plant breeder specializing in rhododendrons. In fact 18 of his hybrids were registered with the Royal Horticultural Society. His dream was to donate a large portion of his collection to form a new garden to be open to the public. With the help of a local politician named Harold Kennedy, his dream became the Bruekner Rhododendron Gardens, located at 660 Lakeshore Road.

It’s a lovely property, with a small creek, a variety of gardens, a swampy bit, a field, access to Lake Ontario, and a good variety of trees, many currently in blossom.

One of the highlights at the garden is a Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata). This tree is an endangered species in Ontario and in Canada.

Cucumber Tree

The cucumber tree can grow up to 80 feet in height. The speciman at the Brueckner gardens is not that tall, but still it is stunning.

Cucumber Tree

Right now is the best time to visit the Bruekner Rhododendron Gardens as so much is currently in bloom. It’s a beautiful spot for a quiet, meditative walk, and well worth a visit. I’m really glad I finally stopped by to check it out.

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Underground

I’ve started a new book of collages. Making collages in old books is something both Sheila and I have been doing during the pandemic. I enjoy the add-and-subtract approach with materials at hand. I can let almost anything happen in these things and there are no rules. As well, the results are portable, which is good, since I’m not planning any exhibitions at this time.

I dig into my box of scraps, magazines, bits of old drawings, brown paper bags and photos and imagine up new worlds any way I like. There is little planning involved with these. I make them up as I go along. Along the way I discovered that subtraction can be really interesting too. I can build up an image, then tear back layers of it and reconstruct parts of it in different ways.

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Fiddle Lessons

I’ve been telling people I’m fiddling my way through the pandemic and it’s true. After I returned from Viet Nam in February last year, I started really working at learning fiddle. I’ve been doing this with the help of a lot of online resources and some sheet music. It’s been going pretty well in that I can play some tunes on fiddle now and it’s starting to sound better and better. At the same time, my approach has been somewhat haphazard. I’ve been concentrating on learning Appalachian old time music, which I also play on clawhammer banjo.

Recently though, I’ve been listening to more and more Canadian old time music, including some of our great fiddlers from the past, such as Reg Hill, Ward Allen, Al Cherney, Andy Dejarlis and many more. I thought I’d try to find a teacher who was fluent in Canadian old time music, with the goal of learning the Ottawa Valley style in particular and to build a repertoire of Canadian music.

I found a teacher – Cindy Thompson – who lives in the Ottawa Valley and has been playing that music – and step-dancing to it -most of her life. We had a trial lesson yesterday via facetime and I’m confident I’ve found an excellent teacher who can help me out quite a lot learning this music.

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Secrets of Graceland

The latest episode of The Agency is now available. Listen right here or find it at all the good podcast places. This week we mix up the spice cumin, with New Orleans, Eugene makes corn bread, we find out whats wrong with ancient aliens, and Candy shares some secrets.

The Agency Podcast has been downloaded over 6000 times since we started. We’d like to thank all our listeners and supporters!

Please join us!

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Flying Saucer Rock ‘n’ Roll

Remember rock ‘n’ roll? You don’t hear it much these days.

Fred Lincoln Wray Jr. was born on this day in 1929. He was known as Link. Mr. Wray played the guitar like it was on fire. Rock ‘n’ roll just exploded out of him. Here he is with Robert Gordon. Take cover.

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COVID shopping fails

Grocery stores are making some effort to disinfect shopping carts between use, but that effort varies widely. The last time I shopped at my local No Frills (that’s Jeff, Rose and Herb’s No Frills at Lake Shore and Brown’s Line in Long Branch), the kid they’ve got disinfecting carts has abandoned all pretense of wiping them down. I expect the guy will spray the handles, then wipe them down with a disposable towel and discard the towel. The other day I was there and the guy sprayed the carts with disinfectant and just left them there dripping wet for the next customer. FAIL. BONE LAZY FAIL.

I like Asian veggies and various other specialty products I get at Grant’s market at Dixie and Bloor. My advice: don’t go there when they’re busy. I was there one afternoon and they made no effort to limit the number of people in the store. It was very busy, but they only had 3 checkouts going and there were lineups halfway up the shopping aisles. It was very difficult to shop and maintain social distancing. In fact I took to extending my arm out to keep people at least an arm’s length away from me. FAIL. Usually mornings mid-week it isn’t so busy there.

I wish these stores would make more of an effort to protect their customers during the pandemic!

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Free Garlic Mustard – pick your own!

Truckloads of garlic mustard, available free for the picking!

This horrible invasive weed delicious herb was brought over from Europe sometime in the 1800s. Thank you Europe! Now it can be yours. Pick all you like from our back garden. Get yours before it’s all gone.

In other news, it looks like my backyard ramps failed to come back this year. I brought a shovelful of ramps home from a place that featured both ramps and yellow morels – before it was turned into a housing development, and I planted them in a woodsy area in our backyard. This was several years ago. Each year they would come back and I would harvest just enough for one meal. They never took off back there but they did reliably return each year – until this year that is.

Out front, I have lettuce, chard, scallions, Chinese broccoli and bok choy growing already in containers and everything seems to be starting out OK.

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Snakes Crawl at Night

Sierra Ferrell (from her YouTube channel) performing the Mel Tillis song Snakes Crawl at Night….

Here’s Charley Pride’s version. I think it was one of his first hit songs, from 1966 (back when there were 2 kinds of music, Country AND Western.

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Gaspé Reel

I’ve been listening to lots of versions of the Gaspé Reel lately as I’m learning this tune on fiddle. Here are a couple stand-out performances of this Quebec tune I found on YouTube:

Here’s Pete Fletcher on button accordion

And here is Louis Beaudoin on fiddle…

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What Year?!

Listen to the latest episode of The Agency Podcast here or find it at all the good podcast places.

This week: documentary update; homemade dog cookies; The Oscars; 2 art museums in Miami; podcast recommendations; The Future is Unwritten and Life on Mars. Please join us.