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Friday, April 5, 2013

News from Loon County - April 2013

Hi D,

We hope you are doing well - with this prolonged winter weather! I must admit that this winter has been quite vexing (as my grandmother used to say!) Still, I must not complain, as there are signs of Spring.

A week ago we drove to Ogdensburg in the U.S. to pick up a parcel (a boat part, inevitably) and we saw a mass of white birds on the St.Lawrence in Cardinal which is the next town along towards Prescott from here. The river flows really fast here, as it is quite narrow, and when we drove to the shoreline we could see there were thousands of snow geese swimming in formation. Amazing sight! We were joined, moments later, by an elderly gentleman with binoculars who was very pleased to discuss the birds and their habits. When he realized we were interested, he got out his big dog - a massive telescope on a tripod, from which we could see the geese up close. The birder was very concerned to explain that you can tell a snow goose by the "smile on their faces" - but I put that down to the prospects of breeding in the Arctic. Not that there's much to see really, they all look the same to me, but the sheer numbers are remarkable. The noise is quite impressive, especially when they take off.

The next day the flock flew past Morrisburg, really high up, beautiful - really long strings shining white in the sun. Going back to Labrador and points further north for the summer, following the river.

Other signs of Spring are the robins, red-wing blackbirds, starlings, grackles, turkey vultures, and of course, the inevitable Canada geese. These last are causing irritation to the more well-off section of Morrisburg, that is, those with waterfront houses. I suppose if you spent thousands cutting trees, digging up the shoreline, landscaping, laying turf, aerating, fertilizing, watering, and buying the suitable agricultural machinery to maintain a lawn, you feel entitled to complain when there are hundreds of our feathered friends crapping on it all day! However, there are a few houses that have no trouble with geese - they have kept a natural shoreline (or what passes for natural in a man-made reservoir, which is what our section of the river is) - rocks and stones with trees and shrubs. No grass except what can grow in the shade of the trees.

We have just completed our first boat project of the year. It is a canvas and clear plastic spray shelter for the boat entrance, commonly called a dodger. Not sure why, although presumably one can dodge behind it if a big wave comes over the boat. We bought a so-called "kit" from a sailmaking supplies company, together with an instructional DVD. Six weeks later we finished it. It is a thing of beauty, at least to my eyes, and has worked out very well, but the process was a lot more complicated than we anticipated. We (Don) did all the metalwork to construct the stainless steel tubular framing then we made a pattern for the cover together. After that, it was mostly me that made the cover. This is probably the most complicated project I have ever made on a sewing machine! However, I learned a lot about tools and techniques. As we both say, having done this one, we are now capable of doing a good job! We couldn't possibly do this for a living, though. I think I'd be paid about $2 an hour at the rate we worked! Next job, after protecting all of the boat gear with made-to-measure covers made from the left over green cloth will be the replacement of my mother's retractable awning canvas. (Famous last words, probably. What can possibly go wrong? I've seen the video...)

Other things we've started gardening, or at least cutting the tree affected by the insidious black knot fungus. This has been a plague in our neighbourhood. It started with James over the back - he inherited the house from his father who had planted two yellow plum trees. These started getting the tell-tale black crusty lumps on the smaller branches, and before the year was out, it had moved to my plum tree. I pruned and sprayed for two years, but had to cut down the tree at the end of last year. The apricot tree in my front yard was less badly affected, but it did have some patches, so we did the radical pruning and sprayed it last week. Now that James has finally cut down his trees, perhaps the apricot can prevent re-infection. The trials of the home front - the Tomb of the Unknown Gardener as Richard Thompson once quipped!

I have just today started some seeds for this year in the house. Flowers, broccoli, basil. The rest of the stuff can be plated directly in a month or so, peas beans, tomatoes, potatoes etc. Then we have to get the main roof of the house replaced (shingles are shot on the south-facing side) which will delay putting back the plants along the side of the house. I had to remove everything so that we could dig up the foundation last Fall, if you remember. We also have another basement window that we didn't put in yet because it got too cold.

As always we have a list of house projects as well as boat projects. For sure, I haven't got time to go to work anymore! Speaking of work, I got a letter from the US regarding the bankruptcy of ASK's parent company SI. You have probably had one as well. I don't think it affects you either. It seems to be a call for any possible creditors to come forward, but since they don't owe me anything I threw it out. I haven't heard anything from anyone currently in the company for months. The last former colleague I heard from was John who is doing his ride for cancer charitable drive again. I sent him $25. He's still at RIM (now called Blackberry) and diong OK it seems. He has moved in with a girlfriend, instead of buying a condo, which seems to be a good compromise!

I have been going along to a writer's group every couple of weeks for the past two months. This was started by my English friend Lesley, and is mostly women of a certain age, where writing become more interesting. There is one man in the group, who is a talented interior designer with a penchant for Victoriana and all things royal. He is very keen on anything to do with the UK; I think his father was from Wales. He has been in a wheelchair since he was shot in a convenience store robbery when he was seventeen, and he is now (I'd say) in his forties. He had a business selling antiques, I think. He has moved to an old Victorian farmhouse house on Lakeshore drive (with attendant goose problems), renovated it, returning it to a state of high-camp late 1800's charm that it probably never had before! He has installed a lift from the drive to his front door and has an elevator from his garage to the first and second floor of the house. That and a fully adapted van and he is as independent as he can be. Also (to make everyone feel like an underachiever) he fosters troubled teenaged boys, mostly from the tough town of Cornwall. Then he sings in the various local choirs, plays the violin, is a charming well-read man...and I think Lesley wanted him to start writing his autobiography. He has a gift for writing as well, especially the kind of children's verse typical of his era (1890's) that Robert-Louis Stevenson's work typifies.

Anyway, the writers group has been writing and reading their work aloud to one another. We vary from struggling writers (i.e. can't write to save our lives) to some working writers (formerly writing for and publishing trade magazines) to very gifted people. It is going to be interesting.

The rowing club is just about to start up again. We have our AGM in a couple of weeks and rowing will start in mid-May, with any luck. I am going to a potluck supper with my crew tonight. Perhaps we can motivate each other to get on the rowing machine again!

Speaking of exercise, I heard that you have started working on using a walker. Congratulations! As S. said, it's another step...

Lots of love,

Sue & Don.

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