Archive for December, 2008

Looking for gold along the Scillonian coasts

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Our family plays more board games during this Christmas and New Years time than at any other time of the year.  We’ve re-discovered Monopoly this year.  And of course we needed to have at least one game of Scilly Gold.

Playing Scilly Gold

Scilly Gold board game

Christmas Eve baking and more

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Baking Christmas Eve 2008 - bunsIt’s Christmas Eve, and I took a vacation day.

While I have been running around getting last-minute buying done, Janet has been filling the house with the amazing smell of baking.

Christmas Eve baking - Amish Cinnamon Bread

Buns, bread, and Amish Cinnamon loaves – I am truly blessed.

At supper we will again light the four Advent candles of hope, peace, joy and love.

After supper we’ll be off to the church for the Christmas Eve service.  It’s usually one of the better-attended events of the church year.

Christmas Eve baking - bread

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Tomorrow we will light the Christ candle, as the waiting of Advent will be over. And of course there will be gifts and eating, including the fresh baking.  No lutefisk or gammelost, despite my Norwegian heritage, but I did find lefse at Harold’s Fine Foods.

SOS

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I’m basically a selfish person.  Putting others first doesn’t come naturally, I need to work at it.  Today’s opportunity to serve others was by spending a few hours helping out at Soup on Saturdays (SOS), downtown at the Salvation Army’s “Outpost”.  Several local churches take turns preparing and serving a hearty soup and buns to the needy people of Prince Albert’s downtown each Saturday lunch-time, and today was Gateway Covenant Church’s turn.

Some of the faces are becoming familiar, because in addition to seeing them at SOS the few times that I’ve helped out, I sometimes see them along Central Avenue near the office where I work.  A couple of them will meet my eyes and say hi, and one guy, Richard, is always prepared to strike up a friendly conversation.

Something that hit me today was how polite most of the clients were.  I’ve never worked in the food service industry, but I have observed some quite rude behaviour from restaurant customers toward their servers.  Despite the rough appearance of some of the people who drop in to SOS for some food and coffee, despite the obvious substance abuse problems of some, the obvious mental illness of others, or whatever their circumstances, most of them have a please and thank-you for their servers.  And today there were several Merry Christmases.

As just one of the nine volunteers from Gateway who helped out at SOS today, my small contribution probably didn’t make much difference to those being served.  However it benefited me, by making me a bit more appreciative of what I have.

I guess that makes me sound selfish, but as I stated previously, I am basically a selfish person.

But it’s a dry cold

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

It’s at time like these, when Saskatchewan is frozen in the remorseless grip of a prairie deep-freeze, that Janet must ask herself, “what was I thinking?”.

The Isles of Scilly (NASA image)

NASA image of the Isles of Scilly.

Grandpa was level on the level

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Farming didn’t work out really well for Grandpa.  Maybe if the soil had been more productive the farm would have prospered, but those grey luvisolic soils are better suited to growing trees than grain.  Even the few cattle that he pastured didn’t provide much income.

Somewhere in his early life, perhaps before he changed his name from Lars to Louis, he had picked up enough building skills to be able to craft his first home out of logs using traditional Norwegian techniques.  He soon learned to build using more standard 2X4 stud wall frame construction, began to build houses for neighbouring farmers, and eventually carpentry became his primary occupation.

Many of the houses and commercial buildings that he built are still standing in and around Shell Lake.  Those solid buildings continue to testify to the quality of his workmanship.

So here is a concert video of John Prine performing “Grandpa Was A Carpenter”.

… Grandpa was a carpenter
He built houses stores and banks
Chain smoked Camel cigarettes
(actually he chewed Copenhagen snuz)
And hammered nails in planks
He was level on the level
And shaved even every door
And voted for Eisenhower
cause Lincoln won the war …
(actually he left the USA before he was old enough to vote)

(cousin Roger – I know you could see this coming).

Calling separatists separatists

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other Conservatives have come under fire by some media pundits in recent days for referring to the Bloc Québécois as “separatists”.  Unfairly labelling the separatists as separatists is apparently divisive.

A question for those critics … Is it OK to call the Western Block Party “separatists”?

Or is having a stated goal of separating from our great country only acceptable in Eastern Canada?

Just wondering.

Good scum

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

With increased concern about the apparent link between elevated atmospheric CO2 levels and climate change, there has been a real push recently to produce liquid fuels from organic matter. However enthusiasm over grain-based ethanol is tempered by concerns about increased cost of food, especially for poor countries where a significant increase in the price of grain could make a difference between having a meal each day or going without.

As a forester, I would like to see more research into the production of cellulosic ethanol, especially if it can be produced economically from parts of the tree that presently get piled and burned.

However a really fascinating option is the idea of producing fuels from algae. Those disgusting scummy green ponds may have a lot more value in the future.

Here’s a video clip about one private research facility that’s investigating algae biodiesel.

Grandpa was a stubborn Norwegian

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

When Janet gets frustrated with me, she has been known to refer to me as a “stubborn Norwegian.” I admit to being more stubborn than I should be, but I’m a relative puppy-dog compared to Grandpa Louis Loseth.

I mostly remember Grandpa as a quiet man whose most remarkable trait (to me) was the fact that he chewed “snuz” – I think it was the Copenhagen brand. Since Grandma wouldn’t stand for a spittoon in the house, Grandpa would occasionally lift himself creakily from his chair, shuffle over to the wood-burning cook stove, and drizzle a stream of brown stuff into the firebox. This was fascinating to a kid from a tobacco-free house.

Although I never had much chance to observe his stubbornness first-hand, I heard stories, including the one about his fur-selling trip.

Homesteading in the first decades of the 1900s in the Shell Lake area wasn’t easy. Summers were spent clearing brush and picking rocks to create tillable fields. Winter wasn’t a time of leisure, but a time to earn some extra money by logging or trapping.

One year Louis had trapped enough squirrels, muskrats, beavers and weasels, and maybe a mink or two, to result in a respectable-sized bale of cured furs, enough to weigh heavily on his shoulders. However he was tough as nails, so the 5-mile walk from his homestead to the village of Shell Lake didn’t faze him.

When the local store-keeper inspected the furs and offered him far too little money, Louis quietly packed the furs up again and set out walking to the village of Mildred, another 11 or 12 miles down the trail, where he finally agreed to a selling price.

I don’t know if he agreed that it was a fair price, but legend has it that if it wasn’t he’d have been willing to walk to Spiritwood, seven more miles further west, out of principle.

Apparently when he returned home to his family, much later than expected, he was carrying a 100-pound sack of flour on his back (well, maybe it was a 50-pound sack).  Grandma had been worried sick, but he had provided for his family, so he was satisfied with himself.

I appreciate the way that Grandpa modelled perseverance and a strong work ethic for his descendants. However Janet doesn’t appreciate at least one gene that the stubborn old Norwegian passed down to me.


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END NOTE: My apologies to any living relatives if I’ve exaggerated this story – if so, call it artistic license – however I think it’s fairly close to the way I heard it, but you know how family histories can morph over time.

Bear warning

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Unlike our western neighbours we don’t have grizzlies in Saskatchewan, only black bears, so we don’t need to worry about identifying the species from its poop.

(Click image to enlarge)

Venture in to Venturoso while you still can

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Just in case any book lovers in the Prince Albert area still aren’t aware or have forgotten, this is a reminder that Venturoso Books will close its doors for good on December 24. The P.A. Daily Herald story can be found by clicking here.

I popped in yesterday and picked up a couple of books at 40% off.  The sale prices will get progressively better as the closing date approaches.  They still have lots of used books, and quite a few new books (predominantly Canadian/Saskatchewan/local interest stuff, which they seem to specialize in).

Venturoso is a nice change from the used book stores that specialize in trashy novels, comics and garish posters.  They will be missed.

Ventuoso Books