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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.

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BBQ Corn Chowder

I love this summer soup, and since Ontario corn has been making appearances in local groceries, I thought I’d whip some up today. I make it a little different each time and I don’t follow a recipe, but I can tell you how I went about it today.

I fired up our charcoal bbq and brought it up to a pretty high temperature. For those of you who like to grill with gas instead of charcoal I suppose that would do in a pinch, but what you’re looking for here is the kind of yummy smokiness you get with charcoal. I grilled up 5 ears of corn until they attained plenty of browny bits all around. I’ve heard that some people find it necessary to soak their corn in water for a while before they grill it, but that’s a total mystery to me. Go forth without fear and plop those ears right on the grill. Nothing bad will happen, I promise. I happened to have picked a couple zucchini from the garden so I sliced one up and grilled it too, because why not?

Next step happens back inside the house. Chop up an onion, the zucchini, a couple cloves of garlic and a big handful of sage from the garden. Chop up a piece of pancetta (optional but recommended) and toss it in the pot and start rendering it on medium heat. Add the other ingredients you just chopped up and let good things happen. Add some salt, but be careful if your pancetta is salty. Meanwhile, cut the kernals off the cobs and when that’s done, toss in the corn. After a while add some water and let the whole business simmer for a while. I added some smoked paprika and some freshly ground pepper and a little cayenne.

I removed half the soup and using an immersion blender, pureed it throroughly, then add it back into the rest of the soup. I checked and adjusted seasonings and let it simmer a while longer. You could finish it with cream but we never have cream around here. Instead, I tossed in a dollop of butter and once that melted in, I added a cup of milk.

When you’re ready to serve, chop in some parsley (yep, growing in the garden).

There are loads of possible variations and they’re all really delicious. Do it the way you like it. The smoky bbq corn and zucchini are the heart and soul of this yummy summer soup. Enjoy.

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Lambton Woods walk

2 cormorants and an egret

Lambton Woods is one the local places for nature walks I enjoy the most. It’s along the Humber River at James Gardens. It’s also where we met this morning for the last of the summer series of nature walks with Miles Hearn.

Thimbleweed

Tansy

As regular readers know, I’ve learned an incredible amount about the natural world around me from these walks. Miles is a fountain of knowledge and a most interesting fellow. The next set of walks will be a series of 11 of them in the fall. I’ll let you all know when sign-up opens for these.

Monarch

Bull Thistle
Figwort

The picture below shows Miles Hearn pointing out the difference between the male and female parts of a Cattail.

The top part is the male, the bottom is the female

And here he is photographing some slime…

Photographing Slime
Soapwort

Great egret fishing the river
Black-crowned Night Heron

Someone in our group with a really good eye spotted this kildeer walking around on a sandbar in the river.

Kildeer
False Solomon Seal

Cormorants
Cedar Waxwing
Coral Mushrooms
Enchanter’s Nightshade
Field Sow Thistle

The highlight of the walk for me was spotting a bunch of chanterelles. At risk of going to nature walk jail, I could not resist harvesting them for dinner.

Thanks to Nadine for the photo…

Chanterelles

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A literally overused expression

Recently I began to notice the qualifier “literally” being overused, in conversation but also on radio and television. For some reason, once I pick up on the overuse of an expression, I notice it all the time. Just last evening we were watching a little television, and on two different shows, characters slipped it in it on multiple occasions. I suspect some writers choose to use expressions like this one to make their dialog sound more like real life, more like us.

Of course, in conversation our brains scramble and reach to find effective qualifiers. I’m no different. Literally is sometimes used when figuratively would be more appropriate, but it isn’t misuse of the expression that bugs my butt, but overuse. We use literally as a gentle but firm intensifier – I’m not exaggerating, I’m not kidding. I get that.

Unfortunately, with overuse the expression loses its mojo. It has simply become filler. It could be worse. For instance, how many times have you heard people in conversation who only have command of the most base qualifiers, such as fuckin this or fuckin that. Fuckin eh.

Previously, it was overuse of the word iconic that grated upon my soul. I decided to strike that word from my vocabulary, at least for a few years. You won’t catch me uttering the word. Now I’m literally going to have to do the same for literally.

Poof, it’s gone.

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A lovely morning at Sam Smith Park

Today’s nature walk with Miles Hearn took place close to my home – just down the street – at Col. Sam Smith Park. Although I’ve been in this park many dozens of times, it’s a fantastic place that just keeps on giving.

Chicory

Our meeting place was at the very east end of the park. I walked in from the west. As I walked by the the yacht club, a shorebird walking along the docks caught my eye, a Spotted Sandpiper.

Spotted Sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

walnuts

When I think of birds at Sam Smith Park, the spring migration comes to mind, when we catch a glimpse of the wonderful world of the many warblers which stop on their way north. Or perhaps, the dead of winter when the basin hosts many winter ducks, and often a snowy owl who takes up residence on the docks. Still, on this beautiful July morning, Miles logged 28 different species of birds.

For me the bird highlight was seeing three Great Blue Herons at once at the pond.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
2 Great Blue Herons

If you’re ever walking along the rocks on the south edge of what we call “the spit”, which forms the yacht club basin, look down now and then. Some of the huge rocks along there hold many fossils.

Fossils

This has been a record high-water year in the Great Lakes. Here in Sam Smith Park, one of the main paths along the lake remains flooded.

Flooding

There are lots of butterflies in the park right now. Look for them around Milkweed and Canada Thistle and Knapweed.

Monarch
Red Admiral
Swallowtail

We saw a few Yellow Warblers today, some of them quite close up. They have a distinctive song. Miles translates it to English, as: cherry cherry…cherry cherry sweet.

Yellow Warbler

The other common birdsong today came from Song Sparrows. We saw them all over the park.

Song Sparrow

You can here the tikita of Goldfinch all around the park too, and every now and again you catch a look at one flying or in among the leaves on a tree.

Goldfinch
Bathing Robin

We came across bath time for robins in the park. Here’s a juvenile robin enjoying a refreshing bath in a path puddle.

Bathing Robin

In the winter, there are many, many ducks around the park. This time of year it’s mostly mallards, this time accompanied by a couple mute swans.

Usual Suspects

There were many Cormorants around. We watched long lines of them flying low to the lake. In the yacht club basin, there are some nesting platforms put out there for the Red Necked Grebes. Cormorants are interlopers on these platforms, and often disturb grebe breeding.

Cormorant on a grebe platform. The Red-Necked Grebe looks on

Queen Anne’s Lace are a common sight in the park and all over Southern Ontario. When you come across some, have a closer look. Many of the blooms we saw today had residents – soldier beetles.

Queen Anne’s Lace with resident Soldier Beetles

You can find a variety of edible berries in Sam Smith Park, including Serviceberries (Saskatoons), Highbush Cranberries, and Nannyberries (Sweet viburnum). These Nannyberries are unripe. When ripe, they are dark blue and starting to wrinkle a little. I’ve never eaten them. Apparently the best way to deal with them is to boil them down for half an hour, then remove the pits and eat the remaining slurry like a jam.

Nannyberries

Here are some of the wildflowers we saw today…

Knapweed

St. John’s Wort
Yellow Bedstraw

Viper’s Bugloss