Sunday, February 3, 2013

In The Aftermath of Strange Weather, and Some Wimsy From The Vermilon River.

This week was probably the strangest of all, with lots of snow, rising temperatures that brought freezing rain, rain, and then a temperature drop bringing lots of snow again. In fact, all roads into the area were closed as the result of accidents or ice. And, there were flooding watches out for all the low lying areas. All the weather forecasts for the week were red banded warnings of whatever the condition was. You'll be able to tell what type of weather the photos are taken in from the background. The weather was so heavy duty that I'm inclined to be whimsical rather than dwell on it. But first a few answers to questions. How do I manipulate a camera in -40 weather. Simple, I wear a pair of well worn fleece gloves inside my heavy duty mitts that are thin enough to operate the camera.The mitts are thonged together so I don't lose them. If my hands get really cold through exposure I use a chemical hand warmer.The camera case is on my chest; the same way you carry a baby,so you simply draw it for a shot. Before I come in I put the camera back into the case and zip it closed, leaving it for a couple of hours ;thus, avoiding condensation, and camera casing damage. When I went to one post per week, I said it was because of time that I wanted to devote to my other hobbies.Someone asked what those other hobbies were. In addition to an amateur photographer, I'm an amateur cook, although neither Boom, nor I are amateur eaters. I got interested in cooking after my accident partially to survive, and partially as therapy. Kneading bread dough is a perfect way to build muscle, and after you've exercised, you can eat the bread. Try that with a set of weights.

Now when I went to elementary school just after the war, that's WW Two, the teachers were returning soldiers, and the female teachers were ones who had stepped into replace the soldiers during the war. The building was a two story brick building with a bell tower. It had three entrances, the boy's, the girl's, and half way between the teachers, right next to the principal's office. The boys played on one side, and the girls on the other. It wasn't that we weren't interested in visiting the girls, it was just too hard to avoid the proctor on our side or on the girls' side, and then sneak past the principal's office.

It was also rumored that if you entered the girls entrance something horrible would happen to you. We weren't sure what, but horrible it was.
The teachers were dedicated, and wonderful. I still recall almost all of them. They flooded rinks for us to play hockey, drove us to soccer games, and baseball games. We shared one set of jerseys for all those sports,so they must have washed the sweaters too. They took us on trips,and arranged field days.But most of all they taught us well. They even knew our parents on a first name basis. Now discipline was a little stiff, for they were quick with the ruler or strap. After receiving the strap one day I remember one of my friends asking if I was going to tell my father on the teacher. My reply:" Do I look that stupid.? I'll get another walloping if I do."

"Now what's this got to do with anything?", you're asking. Well it wasn't just the entrances that were divided by gender,but so were the life skill's classes Boys went to shop, and girls to home economics.We had to commute for the classes, which gave us a whole morning at another school which was about ten blocks away,with lots of chances to get into trouble. In the classes, we learned to make wooden tea trivets, sheet metal scoops, and other assorted junk that our parents praised, and then secreted away, probably living in fear that we'd remember them sometime.
Now I find myself at an advanced age living with a furry companion, who can't operate the vacuum, needing to eat, bake, clean and wash clothes. Because of the accident, I'm shorter on one side by about an inch. So all my pants have to be altered. One day I bought a pair of sweat pants on sale for ten dollars. It cost twenty dollars to alter them, and the inconvenience of picking them up. All this is, of course, "home ec" stuff, isn't it? Now I could eat out, but every small town in the north has the same three eating emporiums:  a Chinese-Canadian restaurant, a greasy spoon. and a tavern. I'd already eaten at them during my convalescence. Or I could go into the nearest city, but that takes too much time, and dogs can't eat in restaurants here as they do in Europe. So I became an amateur cook and baker, and really enjoy it.

But first some important things to me. I like sauces,especially cooking with honey,spices, and fruits,although not hot sauces because I split with Boom as a supplement to his kibble. I like recipes that are flexible as to the choice of meat, and substitution is easy, so I can buy what's on sale as food costs are rising. With that in mind here we go.
Sweet and Sour Honey Sauce.
1/2 cup of ketchup
1/3 cup of honey, although I use more so that the sauce has the consistency of honey,but the colour of ketchup.
2 teaspoons of corn starch.
2 teaspoons of lemon.
Bring to a boil in a small sauce pan for 6-7 minutes stirring all the time.
Take off the heat and cover with a lid and let thicken.
The Meat.
Cube a chicken thigh( boneless), or a pork chop, or beef steak whatever.
Dice a sweet,or Spanish onion, but not a cooking onion; add mushrooms sliced. Add a bell pepper, any colour, sliced, to a frying pan after adding oil, and brown.
When the peppers, onions and mushrooms are browned, add the meat cubes.
Add to frying pan,a tablespoon of prepared horseradish, a tablespoon of pureed garlic, a table spoon of Dijon mustard, and some salt free soy sauce. You can add some chili peppers to heat it up if you want.Make sure to mix in the additions well.

Serve over rice, egg noodles, or rotini wheat noodles. If you count up the ways of serving, and the number of meats you can use, you've got a number of meals. I make the sauce then keep it in the fridge. I also make up the meat and keep it in the fridge, so that I can come in from a hike, make the rice, add the meat and sauce and nuke it, and pour a glass of white table wine. Boom gets some meat, plus some of the noodles or rice for his share.
Now for dessert: If I haven't baked I have grapes and a banana. The photo opposite is sun on the trail
 But what I really like are Streusel Butter tarts.
First the Streusel:1/2 cup of all purpose flour,1/2 cup brown sugar packed
1/4 cup salt free butter
1/3 cup ground walnuts or pecans.
Combine flour and brown
sugar in a bowl, cut in the butter and add nuts when the mixture looks like coarse

 (Opposite the light breaking through the trees.) Make enough pastry for 18 tarts,about the same as the standard pie. Prepare the tart trays with the paper cupcakes and the dough.
In a small pot melt 1/3 cup of unsalted butter.
Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 1/3 of a cup of honey,11/2 tsp of white vinegar, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Whisk together until melted and combined.  Allow to cool to room temperature. In a separate bowl combine 1 egg beaten and 1/2 tsp of vanilla, and add to the pot when cool.
Now I put the mixture in a jar for easy pouring. The mixture will make about 15 tarts. Spread the Streusel, adding more crushed nuts if necessary, over the tarts and cook for 15-17 minutes at 350 to 400 in the oven, or until the pastry is brown and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool and put in fridge to set for about an hour before eating.
In the fridge I always have other fillings because I use fruit as a meat sauce,which I'll post about later. Right now I have pin cherry jelly wild plum sauce, and wild blueberry sauce. The sauce is just thickened fruit that I picked last summer,so I use it as a filler for the remaining tarts.

Now the tarts have no food value at all. But using honey instead of corn syrup gives the illusion of healthiness, although I understood that corn syrup was glucose as opposed to sucrose (white sugar). In fact I grew up on corn syrup because all the early hockey players used it as an energy drink.The real rub is that hiking in the cold requires more calories to maintain your core temperature, carry the increased weight of warm  clothes, and to walk in deep snow. So sorry to all you southerners who hike the prepared nature trails, the tarts are a no, no. HMM they're good. Boom just pass me another one will you. If you're wondering about the quantity, I share the baked goodies with some others in the building.
A patch of blue

Northern Crow
Click any photo to see the slideshow.
A post to Id Rather Be Birdin,Our World Tuesday, and WBW
More blue sky


Formal portrait

Winter moon

F Pine Grosbeak

Seed pods


Two doves in the snow


Jay with peanut

Male Pine Grosbeak

Blue sky

Sun dappled trail


Sun on trail

Strange skies.

Strange skies

Snow shoe tracks another great way to hike.

Snowy cone.

Snowy dove.

Another sunny trail

Close up

Strange light.

Sun peeking through spruce trees.


Sun in a clearing

Impending storm

Two snowy doves.

Two Redpolls

Upper trail

This is another shot of the squirrel waving goodbye. Last time I showed a similar picture most of you missed his paw.

Snow ice and frost on branches

Sunny trail
I stopped to talk, or at least Boomer did, to a guy about my age. He had been raised north of here, and had used dogs when he was young to pull freight, wood etc in the winter around home. I had said that any deep chested and heavy rear ended dog could pull a sled, as long as you covered the short haired ones with a coat for warmth. He said that he thought malamutes were no longer used as much because they over heated. There was a guy here who had giant malamutes, 120 lbs. Regular malamutes weigh like Boom in the range of 80-90 lbs.When you scale up a dog you do the dog no favour as the heart, lungs and joints do not scale up and you a have weakened dog, that does overheat, and dies young. I told the guy this and said the reason that you did not see many malamutes here was the cost of a puppy, about 900 cdn$. And that people here preferred to sit on their ass and drive a snowmobile, or ATV. He was by the way sitting on a snowmobile. When I checked the cost of unborn malamute pups on the web I was shocked. 2500 USD unborn in the US ,and 850 pounds sterling in the UK. Wow.


  1. Hey Gary. I got all the way to the bottom and realised i hadn't looked at a single picture, just read your fascinating novel- great stuff about the old days. The pictures weren't too bad either but now I'm off baking.

  2. Great pica and info.

  3. i tend to agree w/ you on the 'oversizing' of dogs.

    liked your story of the $10 sweats that cost $20 to alter. i took home ec in junior high school and wished i had taken shop classes. :) yes, i can cook and sew but do not really enjoy (or excel at) either.

  4. My goodness, what an interesting read this week. And, with all the 'talk' of different foods, you certainly made me hungry. Beautiful photos, as always, Gary.

  5. This was such a fun post; unexpected and great to read! Memories we share (same age group, school apparently the same in both countries!) I liked the recipes -- we eat kind of like that now -- relatively simple meal bases that we can alter and eat for several days. But not the desserts, because we are definitely 'southerners'...I was thinking before you said it that you guys both need the carbs living where you do. (Hey, I almost go through a whole comment without mentioning the cold, pretty good for me don't you think?) Back asap to look at the slide show. More fun!

  6. I haven't had lunch yet, you made me hungry. Beautiful photos and a must try recipe. Great post!

  7. What a great post to read! And a slide show that's a treat for the eyes! Hello beautiful Boomer!

  8. Wow, do I read it first, or go to the pics, or do both.Lovely story, school days the same here in NZ, your recipes have been noted for a future baking day. One of our daughter's friends bought a malamute pup, in NZ, in the 1980's. He was then about $500 NZ, or maybe even more.They have that wonderful colour on their faces. Very expensive now, about NZ $1500.But Boomer is the best looking of all. Greetings from Jean

  9. Secondary work is more expensive than primary ones. Interesting read and great pics as usual!

  10. With all those shots, I'd say you braved the cold for an awful long time! Wonderful stuff.

  11. It was a very interesting read this morning when I came to visit your blog. For some reason, I cannot post a comment from my iPad, so here I am hours later on my computer visiting again to post here. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post on the sweats, your wonderful recipes and seeing your window of your world or life in general. You lead a good life by the sound of it. I love all the bird shots and the dogs too!

  12. Beautiful series of photos Cary, you live in a beautiful country, with many species of birds.
    All well photographed.
    Greetings Irma

  13. Hi Gary

    Your post brought back memories, walking to shop class, the boy's yard girl's yard segregation and teachers with a deft hand at swatting kids. I loved the photos of the doves they have such a delicate colouring and the dog team what a beautiful group.

    All the best to Boomer.

  14. Fun read for the day, Gary! Those looks back reveal a lot that we might not have been fully aware of at the time. Thanks for sharing and your photos are terrific as always! Have a great week!

  15. Lovely to read about life in your corner of the world Garry ... a very cold and different area but you're surrounded by a wealth of beautiful bird life which we have the joy of seeing through your eyes.

  16. I will have to come back and do some serious reading on this post. Meanwhile, I admire the captures taken in such cold weather and appreciate your kind offer of a jar so I can save ever more Canadian pennies. :)

  17. you are brave to be out and about at that temperature and weather.

    but thanks for the gorgeous bird shots. as always.

  18. wonderful pics! the couple of doves are so cute :)

  19. Great photos and post, Gary! The weather sounds awful and here I am ready for spring. Have a happy day!

  20. these are handsome birds--i smiled at the 'formal portrait'. i enjoyed reading your post. between cooking and baking and shooting birds, you're living a full life. the snow in these images make me shiver.:p

  21. You are a great photographer, if you are just as good a could start a restaurant . Thank you for sharing your lifestory!

  22. We had very strange weather this past week too, and I admire you for going out to take photos..I had polio as a child and one leg is shorter than the other, but I don't alter my pants; i just simply rolled up.

    As for the dog or puppy online, some of them are even in the 3000 dollars mark...Pretty ridiculous, but people buy them!!!

  23. As always I love your wildlife photographs. This was also such an interesting narrative. Great stories.

  24. Beautiful photos. I wish we had some snow but you can keep that cold!

  25. They're all just marvelous. I really love the perspective you have in the first dove shot and the F. Pine Grosbeak is a favorite too.

    But, it's always hard to pick favorites here. Because you always have such good shots!

  26. What lovely shots of the birds and those lovely dogs. They cost a fortune over here too!

    I love making bread and kneading dough too.

  27. Thanks for the tips on shooting in the cold. I will use it for our photo/field trip to Yosemite in the next two weeks.

    Yeah, hot soups and bread are good for the "hibernating" months.

    Take care!

  28. Everybody needs to learn to cook.

    Stewart M

  29. Wonderful post!
    McGuffy's Reader

  30. I knew it! Soon as you post a comment on my post and saw your name, it suddenly clicked to me that I get to see stunning photos and wonderful post from you :)

    All the best,

  31. You always get such great shots!

  32. Great post and I love the 'formal' shot of the Blue Jay. Such beautiful but noisy birds :o)
    Can't believe the cost of those pups, but they are beautiful creatures!

  33. Love to look at your photos of birds and nature!

  34. That's a shame that the folklore with the dogs is almost gone because of money ! Everything is business today ! Interesting post !

  35. Gary, I never tire of seeing your winter scenes and wonderful birds.

  36. Many nice photos from your part of the world! Changing weather day to day also here in Sweden. Love the doves and the squirrel!
    Thanks for your comment! Greetings Pia

  37. Really enjoyed your post Gary. Your school experience was similar to mine. I still can't believe the boys and girls were seperated like that, and I was so ticked off that I couldn't take "shop". Great photos, love the Jay!

  38. Lovely photos.. So many fantastic birds :-) thanks so much for popping by my blog! I look forward to seeing more of your photos!

  39. Great photos of all the wildlife around you - and it was especially interesting to hear how you manage the camera in the cold. School days of that era sound to be very similar all over the world. Enjoy all those carbs for the rest of us who really shouldn't be indulging that way!

  40. I agree with Phil that I forgot to see your photos in this entry. Then the first photo I could see was the last one filled with lots of Boomer!
    I cook to eat and my cooking policy is " simple is the best", like sashimi!

    Take care and be careful when it's icy.

  41. Lovely scenes Gary!
    When I was in school it was a similar case for me. They planned our schedules thinking they were doing the best thing for us. In college prep classes I had no room for choir in longer, couldn't take home ec and barely got in typing - no pc's yet. I fully understand. :)
    My husband who had cooked part-time in a Shoney's during high school taught me how to cook!

  42. This post is such a treat, Gary! It was fun hearing a little about your growing up, and your baking and cooking, not to mention the creature photos, and all that gorgeous snow! Boomer must be very happy.

  43. I truly appreciated your comment on my blog Gary. It helped me overcome things. I have read over this post a few times as I enjoyed it so much. I am gonna copy those recipies for sure. I thank you for giving us this glimpse of your life, this post lets me know who you are, where you are from and your life struggles. There is something so true and universal about it as we all grew up in similar ways. My husband now has one very short leg and one very long one after his hip operation!!! The doc says he will even him out with the next hip. Oh and I like the camera tips also and not to mention great photos. cheers.

  44. Thanks, Gary, for holding up a mirror in which I could clearly see another era - and even remember parts of it!
    Great post, great pictures.
    Only one problem, I'm one of those Southerners with nothing but nice, prepared trails to trod and those Streusel Tarts really sounded good. Sigh.........

  45. Hi Gary..first I want to thank you for your comment on my WBW post, much appreciated!!
    I loved seeing your Grosbeak photo,I haven't seen any kind of Grosbeak in a few years!!
    I had my share of corn syrup when I was a kid,loaded our pancakes with it, but we played outside all day burned it of in no time!!
    Keep baking that always keeps the kitchen warm : )

  46. Wow! Malamutes sound as pricey as K9's.

  47. wow it is so cold where you are! I know what you mean about calories, I lost kilos in a week when I visited a cold part of China and I felt like I was eating heaps.

  48. Magnificent words and pictures, great work!

  49. It may be super cold , but your world is very beautiful!
    Enjoyed your reminiscing!

  50. Great post and beautiful photos. I love all the bird photos. Thank you for sharing.

  51. I had no idea Malamutes cost that much! WOW! And my neighbour had TWO of them! It sounds like you enjoy cooking and baking. Good for you!

  52. Not only did I enjoy the images, but also your writing. The sweet and honey sauce sounds pretty close to my own and it is yummy,yes! You brought back the memories of when the husby and I dated and he would be ushered into his Shop classes, while I had to take Home Economics classes. We also had separate Gym/PE classes...oh my, the memories;')~

  53. Your weather seems a bit extreme. Good luck with that.
    Great photos. Thanks,

  54. A really interesting post Gary.
    We had Teachers exactly like that from the same generation.
    My Maths Teacher was a WWII RAF Pilot with one artificial leg, that didn't prevent him from clipping you around the ear though.{:))

  55. What an interesting post!
    Have you written about your accident? I wasn't aware..
    People have such interesting stories.