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Long Branch Mosaics at Mississauga Garden Festival

On Sunday, Tuffy P will be at the Long Branch Mosaics table in the Marketplace Artists and Artisans zone at the Mississauga Garden Festival with a variety of butterfly mosaics. The festival is at Riverview Park Sunday 10-4. Stop by our table and meet Tuffy P!

Butterfly mosaics will be on sale, and Tuffy P will be happy to talk to you about custom mosaic work for your home and garden. Check out our Long Branch Mosaics pages to see pics of many of our mosaic projects.

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Lonesome Dove

My friend East Texas Red recommended Larry McMurtry’s 1985 novel, Lonesome Dove to me, and mailed me his copy. I just finished it this evening. It’s a beast of a book, 842 pages, but all written in very readable prose. At some point while reading the novel I learned it is one of a group of 4 novels, which I guess can best be called Westerns. I also learned there was a television mini-series based on this book, of which I know nothing.

Lonesome Dove is an historical novel, a frontier epic, and from that standpoint, it’s very interesting to catch the flavour of a difficult cattle drive from Texas to Montana, to catch a whiff of cowboy life. I enjoyed reading it, but although the depiction of the drive rang true, the human relationship stories driving the novel seemed somewhat melodramatic.

I found it difficult to understand why these guys started their cattle drive in the first place. I guess it was as much a big romantic adventure as anything else. The characters were pretty interesting. Some were far more developed than others, but maybe that’s to be expected.

Some severe editing would have helped Lonesome Dove, in my opinion, but in reading some reviews about it (which seem to all heap praise on the book), I didn’t once see that opinion shared.

I read a good chunk of this novel in a screened shelter in a campground near Massey Ontario in the rain. This book was perfect for the situation. I wasn’t for instance, going to finish it in one sitting and wish I had brought a second novel. It moved along at a pretty good pace, and the story and characters were engaging enough to keep me going. I think I’ve had my fill of this author, though, and I’ll leave the remaining books in the series to other readers.

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Can we live with less plastic?

Our federal government has announced plans to ban single-use plastic containers at some point in the near future. That will be quite a challenge, but I think collectively we can live with less plastic in our lives. There will be mis-steps and difficulties along the way, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make the effort. A good start would be to do away with those plastic mineral water bottles I see littered around our parks.

Here in Toronto at least, we have really good drinking water. When I go on nature walks and want to bring water along, I fill my re-usable water bottle from the tap and off I go. Works fine.

I became more acutely aware of the problem of plastic junk littering the planet when we visited Vietnam. We visited Halong Bay, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even in what appears at first to be a pristine landscape we saw plastic junk floating around in the water again and again.

Later on our trip our tour group went out on the Mekong River, and all along the shoreline, we saw plastic litter – a lot of plastic litter. This is not just a problem in far away parts of the world, though. Regular readers know I go on a lot of nature walks in parkland throughout the GTA. A trip does not go by when I do not see litter in these lovely areas.

The number one variety of litter I see on these walks is the ubiquitous plastic water bottle. This is followed closely by Tim Horton’s cups, which I’ve learned are not recyclable. In some parks, such as Sam Smith Park near our home, beer cans are in 3rd place.

There is also the problem of plastic over-packaging. How many times have you bought a small item packaged in a much larger chunk of plastic. It happens all the time, doesn’t it? I wonder how much packaging could be reduced if collectively we put our minds to it.

We have become habituated to using far too much plastic. To really reduce it, we’ll have to do some things differently and that kind of change is difficult and I have no doubt there will be costs attached to it. Many people will resist change and some will no doubt use the opportunity to attack the government for this initiative. I’ve already read Tweets suggesting it is an election ploy, and maybe it is, but still anything we can do to raise some awareness and begin to reduce the amount of plastic we are using has to be a good thing, don’t you think?

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R&D at Nite Owl

I’m continuing to work on the Squeeze Box Man graphic novel with Jacob Yerex, who has been magically bringing my characters to life. I’m finding it creatively invigorating to work on this project collaboratively. Jacob has a great understanding of these characters and his excellent illustration work has sparked a number of new stories. I never imagined I would get involved with a graphic novel and now I’m really jazzed by this work.

Volume 2 is at the printer and we anticipate it will be out at the beginning of July. Meanwhile, we’re well into scripting and illustrating Volume 3 and planning and development for Volumes 4-6.

Through the story arc of Squeeze Box Man, the narrator, Lazy Allen, undergoes somewhat of a transformation. Lazy is short for Lazarus, and while he doesn’t physically come back from the dead, he does rebound from a prolonged period during which he worked a job he didn’t care about, drank a tremendous amount, and more or less existed as a shadow of his former self.

When we first meet Lazy, we learn he is a musician, who used to front a polka band called Lazy and the Rockets, but who has not played in public in a decade. He has lost his confidence and much of his spirit, and when his buddy Staashu asks him to play accordion in his new polka-punk band, Lazy doesn’t know if he can do it.

There will be a story in Volume 4 called Shave & a Haircut, in which Lazy gets himself cleaned up, part of his overall transformation. While this is happening, the reader listens in on Lazy’s telling conversation with his barber.

Jacob and I try to be attentive to a lot of detail in this project, and sometimes some research is required. As well, we want to begin to introduce a few real-life characters into the story. I get my haircut at the Nite Owl, here in Long Branch, (and yes, Lazy lives in Long Branch too). Nite Owl is a fabulous old school barber shop which opened in my neighbourhood a few years ago in what was an old barbershop which had been sitting dormant for a decade – like Lazy, waiting for a new life.

Last time I was in for a cut, I asked my awesome barber Steph if she would be the model for Lazy’s barber. She said sure, so yesterday afternoon, Jacob subbed for Lazy and went in for a shave and a trim. We wanted to capture many angles of the shave & a haircut process to use as the basis for Jacob’s illustrations of this story.

As Steph was doing her thing, I was there with my camera, taking dozens of pictures, capturing as much detail and as many angles as I could.

When Volume 4 of Squeeze Box Man comes out, not only will readers be able to see the physical part of Lazy’s transformation, they also will be able to see Steph reinvented as a comic book character set in the early 80s.

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Volume 1 of Squeeze Box Man is available in Toronto at West End Comics on Queen West and The Sidekick on Queen East, $12 per copy. It’s also available by emailing us at 27thStreetPress@gmail.com. To order this way, payment is by etransfer and there is a $3 postage fee. If you’re interested in the whole set, you can subscribe to all 6 issues for $60, a $2/issue savings.

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The June Garden

We’ve been working on the garden quite a bit, in preparation for the June 22 Long Branch Garden Tour. I enjoy the fact that gardens are never finished. They change with the season and they change from season to season. Here’s a few photos of our gardens I snapped this morning.

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Freedom Butterfly

Freedom Butterfly

This Smalti tile mosaic is a donation for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada June silent auction. You can see a selection of our mosaics at the Long Branch Mosaics page. We make all kinds of custom mosaics for home and garden. Some, like this one, are made with traditional Smalti tiles. We also make mosaics from broken crockery and other found objects.

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We got trout

From time to time I like to go off camping somewhere or another on my own. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked, “why do you go alone?” and I have no explanation beyond that is it something I need to do once in a while. Usually these trips have a purpose, like chasing trout or watching birds or whatever, but I think it’s more about satisfying an occasional need for some solitude and silence.

A few years ago, I was on one of these trips, fly fishing on the Upper Michigan Peninsula. On the way back, I took a motel room for the night at Massey, a town west of Espanola. A fellow there struck up a conversation with me. When I told him where I’d been, he said, “Why’d you go there? We got trout.” I responded in the only reasonable way. “Where exactly you got trout?” I might have forgotten all about this, but I didn’t. Somehow I needed to know what the streams were like, I needed to meet those trout. I decided that one day I would go back there. I just wasn’t sure when it was going to happen.

There was a time I was way more serious about fly fishing than I am now. Over the past few years, it’s been something I’ve done a few times each season at most, but back in the day, I fished a lot of rivers. At the time it seemed important to me to travel far and wide and present fur and feather fly imitations to trout. Sometimes I’d be on my own. Other times I’d be with my friend East Texas Red. Even then, we mostly fished on our own. One of use would go upstream, the other down, and we would meet up at lunchtime or dinnertime and compare notes.

I can barely remember not fishing. That is to say, the first time my dad took me to a trout stream marks an important early memory for me. Dad gave me a big gift, a love for nature, for rivers, for trout, for the chase – which would serve me well throughout my life so far. Beyond telling you this, I can’t begin to explain why I fish. I rarely kill trout. I bend back the barbs on my flies and try to release them with as little harm done to them as possible. Sometimes I think it is a strange activity. Though I don’t fly fish with the same zeal I used to have for it, I still do get out and the activity gives me something I obviously need.

Back during the winter, when I wished it was spring already, I booked a few nights at a campground called The Chutes, right at Massey, and last Sunday I made the long drive. I arrived during the afternoon, set up camp and enjoyed a relaxing evening at my campsite. The next day I would go find those trout.

The Aux Sables River flows through town, below which it joins up with the Spanish. I was going to be going upstream quite a way. A road more or less follows the river, and my plan was to drive it, looking for places I thought might hold trout. This is not such a difficult thing. The trout are in and around the stretches of fast water, sometimes in the riffles, or in the pools below rapids or waterfalls.

It did not take me long to learn there was a problem. The river was still running at spring levels. By this time, it ought to have settled down a lot more than it had. We’ve seen the same high water all over this year. Practically speaking, this meant in many spots wading was out of the question simply because it was too dangerous. I learned that access to the best water was in many cases impossible.

By mid-afternoon Monday, the blackflies found me. Though I was only bitten a few times, the swarms of these little bugs were very irritating. I caught a brook trout. It was a lovely fish, maybe 11 inches long. I released it back into the river. It turned out to be my only trout of the trip.

At some point that night the rain started. It rained part of the night and all Tuesday. Sometimes it would stop and I would tell myself it was time to go fishing, and then the rain would start again, harder than before. Fortunately I brought along a screened in shelter, so I had a place which was both dry and bug-free. East Texas Red had sent me a long novel about a cattle drive, called Lonesome Dove, so at least I had some reading material.

Meanwhile, at some point my air mattress sprung a slow leak. This meant no matter how many times I refilled it, after a couple hours, enough air would leak out to create a hugely uncomfortable position, and so sleeping meant a sore back.

That was not the only technical problem. The washer on my camp stove, where the propane cylinder attaches to the stove, broke. This meant it was very difficult to get a proper seal. I used the stove a few times, but I was uneasy about it and afraid of a propane leak and a nasty explosion. That didn’t happen, but I’m on the hunt now for a new washer. I’m sure they are readily available.

Wednesday morning I awoke with a start. Something was different. Yes, the rain had stopped. I dragged myself up, walking somewhat crookedly after another night sleeping on a defective air mattress. I realized I had better pack up camp before the rain started again. This I did. I left the campground and stopped in town for a tasty breakfast. The rain began again as I was pulling away, and it continued off and on for much of my drive home.

I’m glad to be home. My peculiar need for some time camping on my own was met, my equally peculiar need for catching trout on a fly, less so. I’m still drying out my equipment. Tomorrow I should have everything packed away.

I drove a long way. I got rained on a lot. I only caught one trout. I endured some unfortunate equipment failure. Overall, a pretty good trip. I bet in lower water, it would be fun to fish those fast stretches again. I don’t know if it will happen, but it might.