comment 0

Learn4Life – nature walks

I’ve posted many photos on this blog from the nature walks I attend with naturalist Miles Hearn. These walks are facilitated by the Toronto District School Board. Sign up for the fall term begins today. I mention it here because people have asked me about these walks. They’re really fabulous. I’ve learned so much about the birds and plants around me in all seasons. Miles’ love and enthusiasm for the natural world and his level of knowledge is nothing short of remarkable.

I’ve signed up for the Wednesday walks for the fall. There are 11 GTA nature walks in this cycle. One of the great things about these is that if you can’t make it for one of your scheduled walks it’s no problem to attend other days instead.

You can sign up for TDSB Learn4Life courses online. The nature walks tend to fill up fast, so if you’re interested in attending these, I suggest signing up ASAP.

Each of the walks is in a different spot. The group meets at a designated spot at the designated time, and throughout the walk, Miles talks about the plants and birds we see (and hear) along the way. Miles has never cancelled a walk in the many years he’s been doing them, and I can tell you, he’s never late and he always starts on time. The walks are typically 2 hours through varied terrain. They’re fairly leisurely with lots of stops to talk about what we see. For those particularly interested in birding, by far the best cycle is during the spring migration, simply because there are more interesting songbirds around. However, I enjoy the walks throughout the seasons – there is always plenty to learn.

comment 0

Slow progress, but progress

For some time now I’ve been working on learning fiddle. I have to say that compared to other instruments I mess with, it’s difficult. Early on I decided I would try to learn this instrument by ear, and dispense completely with written notation. This I think is the normal way to learn folk music. Of course the normal way consists of passing the music on from generation to generation – learning from the old guys. I’m not surrounded by fiddle players or even many people interested in fiddle, so I’m learning with the help of an online learn by ear fiddle course.

The course is very cleverly put together. Although I still sound terrible on fiddle, there is no doubt two things are happening. I’m accumulating skills and I’m improving my listening. The latter has also helped my banjo playing, simply because I’m hearing what is going on in the music much better.

One challenge is I don’t want to stop playing banjo to focus on fiddle, and at the same time I’ve been playing some button accordion again after taking a hiatus from that instrument. It’s difficult to find the time and keep up the discipline to play everything, and when I’m having difficulty with fiddle, it’s easy to blow off fiddle practice to learn a new tune on banjo, which at this stage is much easier for me.

When I started messing with the fiddle, my fear was that I was starting into it some 20 years too late. I had almost convinced myself that it was something I couldn’t learn. I’ve played banjo with some very very good fiddle players, and I’ve frankly been in awe, convinced that short of say, making a deal with the devil, humans just can’t play that thing. However, I found myself with a fiddle and I took it on in a way as my folly.

It became quickly apparent there is a steep learning curve, at least early on, but I’m starting to think I might actually be able to learn to play this thing. At the same time, it’s teaching me patience. I recognize it is simply going to take a fair bit of time and lots of effort, and I’m determined to stick with it.

As an adult learner, what’s the toughest thing you’ve taken on?

comment 0

The Food of Vietnam by Luke Nguyen

Luke Nguyen is an Australian restaurateur and celebrity chef, whose family left Vietnam in the late 70s as so-called boat people. The Food of Vietnam is a big, splashy, beautiful book which combines a personal travelog with many appetizing recipes.

We had this book at home prior to our trip to Vietnam. I recently read it through, and now that we’ve traveled to a number of the places featured in the book, and enjoyed some of the special foods from those areas, this book has additional meaning for me.

Compelling food porn featuring one of the world’s great cuisines.

comment 0

The Hole

The City has been replacing the water main on our entire street. This is a big job, one that takes months. They actually started prior to the Long Branch Garden Tour in June. Fortunately, there was a break in the action and the work didn’t have a great effect on the garden tour.

At this point the new lines are in and disinfected and now they’re going property to property, hooking up the new service. For us this meant the crew digging a big hole in our front yard.

While I’m not thrilled with the noisy work and the excavation, I recognize a new water main on our street is a good thing. Fortunately, the hole was just north of our biggest front garden. The grass is much easier to replace than a garden which we’ve been nurturing for several years, that’s for sure.

As I type this, the hook-up has been achieved and they’ve just filled in the hole. At some point once they hook-up the rest of the street they’ll come back and deal with damage to the lawn and so on.

They crew is also replacing a fire hydrant located in the strip of garden between our place and the folks next door on the north. Right now, both the old and new hydrants are in place. The new one is actually in a better location than the old one. The old one was very tight to my neighbour’s driveway and the new one is a foot or so back toward the centre of the garden strip. A small portion of that garden was disrupted, but we moved the key plants to another spot for now and we’ll deal with bringing that garden back to life once the work is gone.

comments 4

Starsky’s parking lot incident….

I do a lot of the shopping for our household, and I shop for groceries at a number of places, including 3 different grocery stores with an ethnic focus. They are Grants, which is an Asian market, Starsky’s with Polish (etc) focus, and Adonis, with a Middle Eastern focus. They’re all great places to shop.

For some time, I’ve reduced my use of those lightweight plastic grocery bags in favour of bigger, heavier-duty bags you can reuse many times. I have bought them from various different stores and so they have the branding of those stores on them. For my part, I don’t pay much attention to that. Eventually those reusable bags become disgusting and I replace them when I need to. A bag is a bag.

One day last week, I pulled into Starsky’s because I wanted to get some kielbasa for the bbq and a few other things. I normally have a bunch of bags in the back of the car, so I grabbed one and started walking to the store. This particular bag was a bright new one, with Adonis branding.

I didn’t get 10 steps before some guy shouts at me, “that’s the wrong bag to be using here”. I said, “huh?” and looked at my bag. I realized the guy had some issue with me using an Adonis bag at Starsky’s. I started to laugh, but he didn’t think it was funny. “You should always shop here. Starsky’s is the best.” So I said, “I shop at lots of different stores. They’re all pretty good in their own way”. And he said, “No. You shop Starsky. It’s the best.”

The guy was disgusted with me both because I would shop at a grocery store with a different ethnic focus and because I would bring an Adonis bag into Starsky’s. I said, “have a good day, my friend”. He walked away, shaking his head.

Go figure.

comment 0

Yeah, yeah, I’m still here….

I haven’t posted much over the past week or so. I guess my ever-so-small brain is temporarily empty and needs to be refilled. Meanwhile, here are Emily Spencer and her late husband Thornton performing Rake and Ramblin’ boy. It’s a helluva song. I hope you enjoy it.