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The Nose

Quite a few years ago, on one of his occasional visits to Toronto, Chicago artsist Anthony Stagg (OK everyone just calls him Stagg, even his honey), spent an afternoon in the little backyard studio, a glorified shed I kept at the time and called The Secret Lab. After he left, I discovered various paintings and drawings left behind in there. Stagg, the Emperor of Ephemera, can be prolific.

One in particular, a head featuring a very prominent schnoz (an oil on masonite painting Stagg recently told me he didn’t remember painting), always made me smile.

Sometime this spring, this painting – Stagg didn’t title it and I like to call it The Nose – emerged from a room we keep full of paintings, when we gave it a temporary home under an umbrella out on our deck. The other day, Tuffy P was generating a “honey-do” list and declared The Nose needed to be attached to our shed door.

Today I picked up some nuts and bolts, and this afternoon, after volunteering at Tri-Hards bowling, I attached the painting to the shed door. Some people would be aghast at the idea of hanging an oil painting outdoors, but this painting seems just right out there, watching over the Imagination Stations and the birdhouses. I suspect Stagg will enjoy watching the elements slowly change the painting. Of course, in the fullness of time, he’s welcome to make adjustments to it as he sees fit.

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My new friend Mr. Kohlrabi

I’ve been on the planet 58 and change years and only recently has it occurred to me to buy kohlrabi. This strange-looking vegetable is in the same family as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and so on.

You can cook it in all kinds of ways, but it turns out it’s perfectly yummy sliced up raw and lightly dressed. Today, I tossed sliced kohlrabi with some lemon juice, a wee bit of sesame oil, a pinch of salt, a pinch of sugar and a sprinkle of cayenne.

Kohlrabi has a great, crunchy texture and a mild, pleasant flavour. How has this been eluding me all these years? I’ve only bought the bulbs, but apparently if you buy it with the greens attached you can cook those up like you might cook collards. Who knew?

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Shaggies

This morning when I was out walking The Partners, I noticed several shaggie mane mushrooms emerging from my neighbour’s lawn. Now I would have pointed this out to him and even provided suggestions for cooking them but unfortunately he’s out of the country.

Shaggie manes don’t last long. They quickly deliquesce, transforming into black goo, which spreads the spores of this tasty mushroom. It seemed wrong to just let that happen, and waste the mushrooms, so after our walk, I sent Ruby and George back into the house and re-emerged with a bowl. I picked 9 beautiful, fresh shaggies.

I know my neighbour will be happy to learn I put them to good use, in a stir-fry made with pork, tofu, celery, onion, ginger, garlic and that wonderful veggie known as morning glory, rau, or water spinach, among other names.

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Last of the Independents

The latest episode of The Agency Podcast, Last of the Independents is now available.

Among our conversations this week, we read a letter from one of our listeners, Bob, who recommends moonshot thinkers Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler to us. We saw JOKER this week and watched a 1968 movie. Bonus: in this episode we offer THE AGENCY trucker hats to listeners who write to us with their ideas, impressions or pleas for a trucker hat (while supplies last….hats will be available by the second week of November).

Listeners can email The Agency or send your cards and letters to:

The Agency c/o Anthony Stagg
PO Box 8912801
1859 S. Ashland Ave
Chicago, Illinois  USA

We would love to hear from you!

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Humber Bay

As a young adult, I had a summer and part time job in the Humber Bay area, working as the evening guy (I was the only employee on site) at an old motel, which was part of a strip of motels along that part of the lake shore. Those motels are all gone now, replaced by condos.

The trade-off for having a relentless strip of condos along the lake was the development of land-fill parkland on the lake side of the new buildings, including two large parks, known today as Humber Bay East and Humber Bay West.

The area has become considerably naturalized and is now a great spot to go for a nature walk, look at birds and butterflies, or take photos. I’ve seen coyotes, peregrine falcon, great blue heron, black-crowned night heron, and many migrating songbirds.

My City from Humber Bay

This morning, I enjoyed a good walk at Humber Bay. My American friends may not be aware this past weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving, and we enjoyed 2 large dinners with family and friends. Some exercise was in order.

It was cool but sunny this morning, perfect for a walk, yet I only came across a few people out enjoying this beautiful lakeside area. Today they were mostly people out walking with their dogs. Some days at Humber Bay I see the tell-tale binoculars and long camera lenses of birders.

Sea Buckthorn

I feel really fortunate to live in a city with some really fantastic parkland. In the area around where we live, to the east, Sam Smith Park, Humber Bay and High Park. To the west there is Marie Curtis Park, Etobicoke Creek, various parks along the lake shore in Mississauga, Cawthra Woods.

Bull thistle in seed
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Tar Spot

I’ve been noticing big black splotches on maple trees lately, especially on Norway Maples and I wondered what that was. Is it killing the tree? Is it caused by some scary environmental factor?

It turns out it is a common fungus known as Tar Spot, which has been recognized since the 1700s. There are 3 related Ascomycete fungi which cause the splotches. The fungi manifest themselves as splotches end of season and are obvious at that time. It’s considered to be a cosmetic issue which does not affect the health of the tree.

If you get tar spot on your maples and you don’t like it and want to get rid of it, I read the best way to control it is to rake up and remove fallen leaves, because the fungus over-winters in leaf debris.

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Everywhere, Coffee Cups

At Humber Bay, a 3 second walk from a garbage can

Everywhere I go, I see disposable coffee cups littered on the ground. Today I went for a walk through the lovely naturalized parkland at Humber Bay and picked up one from Tim Horton’s and another from Starbucks. The cup in the photo was steps from a garbage can.

What kind of selfish idiots decide to bring their take-out coffee to a place where they can enjoy a taste of nature, then toss coffee cups on the ground? I’m sure it’s the same people who toss water bottles, beer bottles, energy drink bottles, lunch wrappers and other crap on the ground. Stop it, people.

Stop it now!