Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bringing Home the Tree

This is a story that I wrote three years ago. I do hope you enjoy it.

Christmas has always been a source of delight to me. When I was a child, Mom and Grandma began to prepare for the Christmas holidays as early as September.

Our house stood on a lot of land of my Grandfather’s farm in southern Ontario. Much of the Christmas baking was a shared activity. Mom would wake us kids early in the morning and we’d walk across the field to Grandma’s. There we’d spend the day making white and dark fruitcake and Christmas pudding… but that is another story. The activity that I loved most didn’t occur until the middle of December – bringing home the tree.

Early on a Saturday morning, my married aunts and uncles would arrive at Grandma’s. Mom would bundle my brother, sister and I into our winter garb and we would walk to Grandma’s with Dad. This was the only Saturday of the year that Dad didn’t work and we kids were always delighted that he could be home for the special event.

When everyone had arrived, Grandpa would hook the team, Punch and Maude, to the sleigh. He and Dad would climb up on the seat while the rest of us scrambled onto the sleigh. When we were all safely seated, Grandpa would click his tongue, flick the reins, give a soft, “Ha,” and we would be off down the lane, over the frozen creek, up the hill and across the field to the back forty.

This was a wondrous place for a wee girl. A spring bubbled out of the hillside, even in winter. Gigantic pine trees grew upon the hill on the other side of a small, ice-covered brook. The sight of the pines, towering high, their boughs dressed in lacey, white gowns of snow, always left me in awe, especially if there was a deer or two standing beneath them.

When we went down the hill, Grandpa would pull the reins and the team would veer to the right. Here, an evergreen forest grew. There were trees of every size imaginable.

At the edge of the wood, Grandpa would pull back on the reins, call, “Whoa,” and the team would come to a stop. He would tie the reins around the sleigh’s brake and we would all jump down into the soft snow. From here, each family tramped through the drifts in different directions in search of the “perfect tree.”

Grandma and Mom both loved spruce trees. Dad and I liked pine. Though Grandpa always cut a spruce, our family alternated. No matter which year it was, we always loved searching for the tree that would stand in the place of honor in front of our living room window.

Once we had found the “perfect tree,” Dad would crawl underneath its’ branches and saw through the trunk. As the tree fell, we children would dance with delight in anticipation. Then, Dad would hook his gloved hand through the uppermost branches and drag the tree back to the sleigh. Once everyone had their tree, the men would load them; we’d scramble back into the sleigh and head home.

When we arrived, Dad would trim the branches and insert the tree into an old galvanized bucket filled with sand that Mom had covered with green or gold foil. Then Dad would weave strings of lights over and between the branches and leave the rest of the decorating to Mom and us kids. By the time the tree was “dressed” the room was filled with a lovely evergreen fragrance. There were bubble lights and ornaments of every description. When the decorating was finished, Dad would lift one of us up to place the angel on the very top. She watched over our Christmas festivities every year. Mom still has many of those ornaments and that very same angel still looks down from the top of the tree each year.

After I was grown and moved away, the trend of the day was artificial trees. I missed the tradition of cutting and bringing home the tree as well as the lovely fragrance. When my oldest grandson was born, I vowed when he was old enough, I would renew the tradition of “bringing home the tree.”

I now have two grandsons, Brandon and Jordan. Last year, we took the boys and went into the country to buy a tree. We found a beautiful spruce, which is Brandon’s favorite. It was a pre-cut tree but a beauty.

This year, the Christmas tree farm that we usually go to was closed, so we continued down the road to see if we could find another tree farm. Before long, we saw a sign and turned into the long, snowy lane. Two elderly gentlemen were about to unload pre-cut trees from a truck. They suggested we walk through the woods to see if we could find a tree that we liked.

Though we spent about forty minutes tramping through the snow between the trees, we didn’t find “the” tree. So, we headed back to the car feeling a bit disappointed. Then Brandon, who was bound and bent we had to take a tree home “today,” spotted a green spruce. The trunk was straight, the branches full, but it had two tops. We marked the tree and went back to ask one of the men to cut it for us.

When we got back to the sales area, we spotted two “perfect trees.” I asked the boys if we should buy one of these but they shook their heads and protested vehemently. They wanted to cut the tree we had marked.

I looked at my husband and told Brandon to ask the man to cut the tree. While he went about his task, Jordan laid on the ground making snow angels. Brandon watched intently, his eyes sparkling.

When we went to put the tree in the trunk of the car, it wouldn’t fit. My heart sank. How would we get it home?

The elderly gentleman suggested we tie it to the roof. Though I doubted the wisdom of this, I agreed. If the tree fell off, neither my husband nor I would be able to get it back on. But, when the tree was in place, we set off. The tree was so big that the branches partially blocked the back and passenger windows. I prayed the tree would remain secure on the ten-mile trip home.
We arrived home about a half-hour later without incident. The boys danced with excitement as we took the tree off the roof of the car. Though it wasn’t exactly the tree I would have liked, it would have to do. I could cut the second top out of it, place the bare spot next to the wall and …

As I watched the boy’s eyes sparkle, I suddenly realized that the “perfect tree” doesn’t mean a straight trunk, full branches and a single top. The “perfect tree” is the tree that touches your heart and especially the heart of children.

I hope that when the boys are grown, they will remember the tradition of “bringing home the tree,” and share it with their children and grandchildren. It is one of the most treasured moments of Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all my friends in blogland. This year many people have touched my heart. I appreciate your friendship and cherish each of you in a very special way. My wish is that the Light of Christmas will shine brightly in your hearts and home this Christmas season. May God bless you abundantly. ~Blessings, Mary~

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Canada's Queen Charlotte Islands

On a tiny island south of Alaska’s panhandle and ninety miles off the shore of British Columbia, a battery of weathered and decaying totem poles stare out to sea. These poles once declared the status of the powerful Haida Nation. Grizzly bears, eagles and killer whales, once magnificent specimens of the Haida’s talents are rotting and falling. It seems they are disintegrating back into the earth to join the people who carved them in such vivid detail.

An abandoned, windswept village in one of Canada’s newest national parks is even more special. Ninstints, as the long deserted village is called, has the most totem poles on the Pacific coast that still stand on their original site. It has been declared a World Heritage Site. It is an important legacy to the history and culture of not only Canada, but mankind as well.

Here, the decaying totem poles of the Haida people regain their dignity. These totems are not props or souvenirs that are peddled to tourists. They are a tangible link to the past – a time when there were no borders or boundaries, except those between the different tribes of Native people.

Other Indian ruins can be found in Gwaii Haanas, another park. Translated, Gwaii Haanas means “Island of Wonders” and the totems are indeed a wonder – magnificent specimens of bygone days.

The government of Canada is seeking to preserve these islands. The area is abundant with sea, animal and plant life. The area, recently declared a national park consists of 363,000 acres. The Canadian Government plans to extend protection to the waters surrounding the area, making it the largest contiguous marine conservation area in the world. The government is also regulating the number of visitors to the park. Only 175 people are allowed to enter daily. Approximately 3,500 visit every year.

The park is made up of 138 islands. Boaters and Kayakers flock to its crystal clear waters. Since there are no roads, people that don’t come by sea must come by air. Hundreds of visitors come to the islands drawn by the totems. Others come, seeking a wilderness experience.

The Queen Charlotte Islands are beautiful specimens of nature, but at times gale force winds sweep across them without warning. Mist and fog often settle over the islands like a soft veil, giving them a forbidden, mystical appearance. Then, the rains come, lifting the veil of fog so the sunlight can fall over the thick, lush rain forest. Evergreen trees within this Pacific rain forest stretch into the sky. Some are as tall as 150 feet. The moss that covers their gnarled roots is so thick that when you walk upon it, it’s like walking on lush, green carpet.

Wildlife abounds in the air, on the ground and in the sea. Bald eagles, puffins and peregrine falcons inhabit the air. Deer, introduced to the islands by man are plentiful, as they have no natural enemies.
A unique breed of black bear inhabits the island. It is one of several biological oddities that have contributed to the islands being called the Canadian Galapagos. This bear is larger than bears that inhabit the mainland and has stronger jaws that enable it to crack and eat various specimens of shellfish.

Researchers have found thirty-nine species of plant and animal life that are unique to the Queen Charlotte Islands. This area did not feel the full impact of the last ice age and these unique species evolved when the islands remained isolated from the mainland.

The Haida’s main staple was Halibut, an ugly fish with an off center face. Roasted over an open fire, it is mouth watering good. The Haida prized the fish and often carved it on their totem poles.

Kayaking is popular and as you venture out on an expedition, it isn’t unusual to see a seal surface to check out the most recent visitor. Bald eagles soar overhead as you skim over the water. Below is a virtual aquarium of sea creatures. Purple starfish sparkle against the green seaweed. Anemones and sea cucumbers cling to the rocks near shore while jellyfish glide through the crystal waters.

A snow-white raven nests near the village of Port Clements. It has been the center of much discussion. The Haida see the albino bird as a sign – an omen. They feel it may be the Raven of mystic legend, returning to play tricks on the humans who live on the island.

The Haida are extremely protective of the Queen Charlotte Islands. It took many years of anti-logging protests to convince the government to declare it a national park. In order to visit the Haida historical sites, you must either hire a licensed guide or attend a mandatory orientation session, which covers Haida history, safety precautions and camping techniques. The inconvenience is well worth the experience. What you will find is a wilderness area with no development or facilities and the lonely twenty-three totem poles that remain at Ninstints.

The world has progressed as these totems stand, like sentinels, over the village that was wiped out in 1863 by an epidemic. Their creators have almost vanished. The Haida culture has almost been destroyed.

In 1969, a totem pole was raised in the village of Massett. Since then, other Haida traditions have been revived. It seems that both the Haida and the totems have been revived. It seems that both the Haida and the totems have risen again.

Upon departing, if you look closely at the totems, it seems that smiles creep across their weather-scarred cedar faces. Once again, they will stand in silence. Sentinels of a bygone era.

This article was first published at in 2004

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Nature and Christmas

I love nature, as you can tell if you've visited here before. Animals and birds bring a lot of joy into my life - both domesticated and wild animals. I put out a bird feeder or two every year in order to help all species of birds make it through the winter. Chickadees, bluejays and cardinals visit my bird feeders along with a variety of other bird species.

On our property we have raccoons and squirrels and, in the spring and fall, the less welcomed skunks. I'm not very interested in skunks because they get into garbage and Meeko, my Alaskan malamute thinks they are animals he should play with - NOT!

Please keep the love of the animals and birds in mind this year and help them winter safely. Animals and birds need food, shelter and water in order to survive the harsh climates of North America. Please do your part and provide a safe place in your yard for them to spend the winter.


Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Glimpse of Canada

From the rocky bluffs of Newfoundland to the vast Douglas fir forests and rocky shores of Vancouver Island, Canada is truly a country of picturesque beauty. Every province from the Maritimes in the east, to the rugged shores of British Columbia in the west, has its own natural beauty.

The Queen Charlotte Islands north of Vancouver Island point, as a bony finger, into the Pacific Ocean. Called Haida Gwii by the Haida Indians, they are often called the Canadian Galapagos. Here, abandoned villages, decaying totem poles and remnants of longhouses pay tribute to Canada’s Native Peoples.

In British Columbia, the paths of Stanley Park wind amidst giant firs and fragrant beds of flowers. Superbly carved totem poles reach into the sky, giving evidence of the talents of the Haida Tribe who once called the shores of the Pacific Ocean home. The little known Mohawk poetess, Pauline Johnson, spent many hours in this beautiful natural sanctuary.

The solitude of the Arctic Highlands have a desolate beauty all their own. The barren landscape, snow swirling in the wind, gives one the feeling of being completely alone in the world. On April 1, 1999, Nunavut became Canada’s newest territory. Here, you can discover the Inuit, the indigenous people who, for countless years, have called Nunavut home. You can see a variety of wildlife as well as the National Park. A great experience for those who love adventure.

In the heart of South Central Alberta lies the Drumheller Valley, often referred to as the Dinosaur Capital of Canada. It is within easy driving distance of Red Deer, Calgary or Banff and will sweep you into a prehistoric world. What is now Drumheller, once lay on the coastal lowlands of a vast inland sea. Lush vegetation was an ideal environment for a great variety of life forms. Dinosaurs roamed the area. Today, Drumheller is one of Alberta’s major tourist attractions.

The Big Valley Jamboree draws thousands of people to Saskatchewan each year. The event was inspired by an American radio show and in 1983, the Bosco Society created Saskatchewan’s first country music jamboree. 4,000 fans attended. The event has grown in popularity ever since. The nearby town of Craven, rightly proclaims itself to be the Country Capital of Canada.

The Interlake area of Manitoba has much to offer. Wildlife is abundant. Cougar, buffalo, coyote, moose, timber wolves and lynx are just a few of the animals that live in this natural wilderness. This area offers a wide variety of activities including boating, swimming, hunting, fishing, festivals, museums and history. There’s virtually something for everyone.

St. Jacob’s is an idyllic village located in Southwestern Ontario. As you stroll down the streets you have a definite feeling of stepping into the past. Though vehicles are allowed, many horse and buggies can be seen traveling on both the main and back roads in the area. The main street is a virtual smorgasbord of unique shops. A Touch Of Scotland sells handcrafted goods made by over a hundred local artisans. Gifts of every description can be purchased in this quaint rural town. Amish families live today much the same as they did a century ago. Telephone, electricity, tractors and indoor plumbing are taboo.

In culture and style, Montreal is Canada’s Paris and prides itself on being the largest French-speaking city outside of Paris. In any season this is a walker’s retreat. Shiny steel and glass towers, Neo Gothic churches and narrow 17th Century houses make this city a pleasure to visit.

Canada has seven covered bridges that have survived progress. All seven are in the Maritimes. I have visited the Wheaton or Tantramar covered bridge, which is located Northwest of Moncton, New Brunswick. A stroll in its cool interior on a hot day gave me the feeling of moving back in time to a completely different era.

The Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick has some of the highest tides in the world. These tides create a magnificent coastline. With every tide, 100 cubic kilometers of water enters or exits the bay. The Bay of Fundy is one of the marine wonders of the world.

The new Confederation Bridge that stretches over the Atlantic Ocean from the mainland to Prince Edward Island makes waiting for the ferry a thing of the past. PEI is famous for its red clay coast, crops of potatoes and the birthplace of Lucy Maude Montgomery, author of Anne Of Green Gables.

Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island is a magnificent place to visit in the Autumn, when it is alive with the breathtaking color of leaves that the frost has turned multiple shades of reds, yellows, oranges and browns. The Annapolis Valley is covered in a pristine blanket of white in the Spring when the apple blossom’s fragrance fills the entire valley. This area is a must for anyone who enjoys the wonder of nature.

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia is one of my favorite places. I have stood on its shores shrouded in mist and watched ten-foot waves pound and polish the granite rock that the coastline consists of. A red and white lighthouse stands on the point, its beacon warning the ships at sea of the danger of the rocks. The legend tells of a woman named Peggy whose husband went to sea and never returned. Until her dying day, no matter what the weather, Peggy walked to the ocean’s edge and stared toward the horizon, waiting for the man she loved to return home. Within a stone’s throw of the lighthouse lies a quiet fishing village that has not changed much over the years. Only the old timers remain. Here and on the shore are fishing boats, nets and lobster traps. One day these too will become a thing of the past.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of Canada. It is a country of rugged beauty, friendly people and a place where we live in freedom no matter our race or religion.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

Folded Wings has tagged me for the Seven Things Meme. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs. Let each person know that they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Seven Things about Me

1. When I was born, the doctor told my mother that I should have had a twin. Apparently early in the pregnancy the twin had died. I often wonder what my twin would have been like? Would it have been a boy or a girl? Would we have been identical or fraternal twins?

2. I am a writer and write web content and have had my writings published in both online and print venues. I'm so glad that my childhood dream of being a published author has come true.

3. I have two grandsons that I am very close to. The oldest has Asperger's Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. The youngest is legally blind in one eye. Both boys are doing a great job of adapting. All of that said to let you know that I am a Grandma of two grandsons and each has an invisible disability. Still, I always tell them they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.

4. I drove taxi for 14 years, but wouldn't do it today. I worked the 11:00 am to 2:00 am shift. Yes, that was our shift - 15 hours. I was a single mother at the time and have never been so exhausted in my entire life.

5. I first drove a vehicle when I was six, yes 6, years old. I grew up on a farm and they were a man short, so they put me to driving the pickup truck while the men loaded it with bales of hay. I was short enough that I had to slide my butt down over the edge of the seat to reach the petals. It was expected that I do a good job and not throw the men out of the back of the truck. Instructions were clear, "Don't pop the clutch." Yes, the pickup was a standard and since that time I've driven trucks, tractors, combines, cars, vans and almost any other kind of vehicle you can imagine.

6. When I was three I was accidentally hurt by my grandparent's German shepherd dog. Grandma said that dog cried real tears and she'd never seen anything like it in her life. I had 17 stitches on the right jaw of my face. When I came home from the hospital, I ran from our place to Grandma's because I wanted to show Prince (the dog) that I was alright. Today others see that scar and ask what happened. As for me, unless someone mentions it I forget it's there.

7. My biggest enjoyment in life comes from giving to and helping others. Some people can't understand that, but that is me through and through. I would give anyone the shirt off my back just because they needed it.

I hope you've enjoyed learning these things about me. I never tag people. If you would like to participate in the meme, do so and please let me know. I would enjoy reading seven things about you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Thank You, Renie

Renie Burghardt at Renie Burghardt's World has presented me with this "Fabulous" Award. It is my first award for my "Treasures to Me" blog. Thank you, Renie. I will cherish it.
I would like to pass it on to these special friends,
I always limit myself to giving awards to five people. However, every one of my readers mean the world to me and I cherish each of you. Blessings!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wash Day at Grandma's

Wash day at Grandma's was a unique and exciting day for me when I was a child. Grandma's farmhouse had no modern conveniences, like running water or electricity. This meant we had to either get our water from the cistern, well or spring.

Sometimes in winter the cast iron pump would freeze solid. We'd pour warm water into it and pray it would thaw out. This was a time consuming process and often made matters worse. We couldn't pour hot water into the pump to melt the ice because the meeting of hot and cold would have cracked the cast and the pump would have then been worthless.

If we couldn't thaw the pump, and if the creek and spring were frozen solid, we had only one alternative. We ventured into the yard with buckets, pails and dishpans, filled them with snow and carried them into the house.

On top of the old cookstove, stood a copper boiler. We'd empty our vessels into it and traipse back outside for more snow. Our tired legs and bodies would make trip after trip into the kitchen, to add the snow to that already in the copper boiler. It was then, long before I ever entered a classroom, that I learned it takes a lot of snow to make a small amount of water.

After the copper boiler was full of snow, Grandma would make us cocoa. This was the best part of wash day. She did this by placing a saucepan of milk on the stove until it steamed. In the meantime, she put a teaspoon of cocoa into our cups and added a teaspoon of sugar and about an inch of pure cream. After testing the milk with the tip of her little finger, to make certain it was just the right temperature, she would scald the cream/cocoa mixture. The cocoa was delicious and warmed us after our many treks into the cold, frosty yard.

The copper boiler stayed on the stove all night. In the morning, Grandma would add a handful of homemade soap and a scoop of borax to the water. Then, she would put in the white clothes for about a half-hour, stirring them occasionally with a large wooden ladle made especially for this purpose. It reminded me of a miniature canoe paddle.

Grandma would lift the clothes out of the copper boiler with the wash ladle and place them in a large, blue granite pot. When they had cooled sufficiently, she would wring them out by hand, rinse them out, rinse them in the washtub, wring them again, then put on her coat, boots and gloves and venture out into the bitter, winter weather. She clipped the clothes to the clothesline with long, wooden pegs. Within minutes, the clothes were frozen stiff.

When Grandma came back into the house, she would put the next load of clothes into the copper boiler, boil them, wring them and take them to the line. This procedure would continue for most of the day.

Grandma had two long clotheslines and I remember well ducking beneath frozen sheets and towels, making it a game, as children tend to do.

After the clothes had been on the line for two or three hours, Grandma would bring them into the house and hang them on lines in the summer kitchen. Here, they would thaw and begin to dry a little. Since the summer kitchen had no heat, the clothes never completely dried. Grandma left them there overnight. Early the next morning, she would set three flat irons on the cookstove to heat. One by one she would bring items of clothing in from the summer kitchen. Using the flat irons, she would iron them until they were completely dry, then hang them in the closet or fold them and put them away in drawers.

I will never forget the fresh, outdoor fragrance that filled Grandma's kitchen when she set those flat irons to the damp frost-dried garments.

In summer, wash day was somewhat different. The wash water was pumped and carried in pails to fill the copper boiler. After the water boiled, the women would fold towels and slip them around the hot handles before carrying it outside to pour the steaming water into the old, wooden washing machine. This washing machine was fascinating. Mother had an electric, wringer washer; Grandma had a manual, pumped by hand.

First Grandma would set her glass scrub board inside the washer. Any stained or extremely soiled clothes would be lathered with a bar of Sunlight soap and scrubbed thoroughly. I've seen her scrub socks, as many as forty pair, on that scrub board. Her fingers would be red and raw, almost to the point of bleeding. Then, she would add detergent or a hand full of homemade soap and close the lid that had a large and small gear on the top.

Often, it was up to me to pull the handle on that old machine. Back and forth - back and forth until I felt my arm would fall off. Just when I felt I couldn't pump that handle once more, Grandma would appear, a smile on her face. She'd unfasten the clamps on the lid, take out the clothes and crank the handle of the wringer.

I'd watch as the rollers flattened the clothes, sometimes spraying water from the pockets. Grandma fed the wringer with one hand while cranking with the other. On the other side of the wringer, the clothes would fall into a galvanized tub of ice-cold water. After the clothes were rinsed, Grandma would crank them through the wringer one last time and hang them on the line. The procedure then followed the exact pattern of a winter wash day, except Grandma took the clothes in from the line while still damp and ironed them right away.
Today, in summer, I still hang my clothes on the clothesline to dry. Of course, I have an automatic washer and dryer, but much prefer the fresh smell of laundry that has been dried outdoors. As I fold and hang the clothes that nowadays require little or no ironing, I drink in the fresh, outdoor fragrance and travel back to my childhood - back to wash day at Grandma's.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Old Pump

When growing up on the farm, water was a precious commodity. We lived on a lot on the northwest corner of my grandparent's farm. They had a well where, on a hot, humid summer day you could coax clear, sparkling and delicious water from the old cast iron pump. You didn't need ice to get a cold, thirst quenching drink. It came directly from the well and was as cold as any that you would get today from a refrigerator.

On our acre of land there was no well. We did have a cistern, but that water was unfit for human consumption. It was only used for laundry, moping floors and other household chores. We got our drinking water from the well at my grandparent's house. We walked across the field with a pail and pumped the water from the well.

When the galvanized pail that set on the cupboard was getting empty, Mom would pour the remainder into a glass pitcher, hand the pail to either my brother or myself and off we'd go across the field to Grandma's. This job usually fell to me. My sister was too young to carry a full pail of water and my brother was usually in the barn or the fields. So, I was what you could call the water bearer most of the time.

I'd take the pail and run across the field, pail swinging through the air. Then I'd round the corner of Grandma's house and climb the verandah steps. I'd hang the pail from the hook on the pump and began the tedious task of working the handle. If the pump had lost its prime, I would have to go into the house to get a bit of water for priming. That old pump was cantankerous and there were a few times that Grandma would have to wipe her hands on her apron and come to give me a hand. Priming the pump in winter was a rigorous task, as warm water had to be used. It couldn't be too hot or the cast iron that the pump was made of would crack.

Whatever the season, the old pump would finally catch its prime and the clear, sparkling water would gush from its gaping mouth. I would continue to pump. The pail had to be full. There was no going home with a half pail of water. When the pail was filled almost to the brim, I would begin the journey home.

The pail of water was fairly heavy for a ten-year-old girl, but I was used to hard work and never thought anything of it. I did take my time going home. I kept a sharp eye on the pail, worried that some of the water may slop. Water was precious! Every drop was a treasure, especially in summers when we received little or no rain. Finally I would hand the pail of liquid gold to my mother and breathe a sigh of relief. The water had arrived safely.

I don't remember ever spilling any of that water. I just knew that it was priceless and so was very careful when transporting it. If it was spilled, I would have to account to Dad. He was very strict about the water we used. He knew that the well could go dry at any time. However, Grandma kept that spring running into the well by giving thanks to God each morning for its neverending supply.

Today my aunt lives in my grandparents old farmhouse. The farm is hers now and so is the well and that old pump. Yes, it is still there and amazingly enough, it still pumps water. However, there is one difference. When my grandparents lived on the farm, that old well never ran out of water. It was a spring and back then springs didn't usually run dry. Today, when summers are hot and little or no rain falls, that old well goes dry as a bone. Then water has to be trucked in. How times have changed.

We must all be good stewards when it comes to water. The Earth will only supply so much and one day we may find that water is very scarce indeed. The water levels around here are dismally short of what they once were. The Great Lakes are not at the levels they once were.

Water is precious. Be a good steward and protect our water supply. Water is a treasure to me, as are my memories of my grandparent's old cast iron pump.

Note: The photo at the top of this article is one that I shot of a picture painted by artist James Lorimer Keirstead. It hangs in my home. James is the cousin of my husband's mother. I absolutely love his art. To see more of his beautiful art, please click here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Spirit Bear

A few years ago, I had written this article and posted it on another website. I have updated it to reflect today's statistics on the Spirit Bear, which is a rare species of bear that lives on Canada's west coast. It is a real treasure to both me and my country. I retain copyright to this article.

The legend of the Gitg'at and Kitasoo Native Peoples tells that when the glaciers of the ice age receded, Raven made everything green. He decided to make one in ten black bears white, to remind him of the time when the world was white with ice and snow. Raven set aside an island paradise for these bears - now known as Princess Royal Island. According to the legend, these bears will never leave the island. It was a remote paradise where the bears were to live in peace forever.

Princess Royal Island is covered with pristine rainforest valleys that are blanketed with lush foliage. Hemlock, cedar and 800-year-old Sitka spruce stand tall against the sky. Packs of rare black wolves roam freely and hunt the abundant deer population of the island. Porpoises, elephant seals and Orca whales make the island's channels and coves their home at certain times of the year. It is virtually the paradise that Raven intended it to be. However, "peace forever" is no longer guaranteed. British Columbia's massive logging industry is endangering the "Spirit Bear."

The Kermode Bear

The Spirit Bear is the Kermode bear (Ursa Americanus Kermodie.) It lives in British Columbia's rainforest. This bear is not a cousin of the polar bear, or an albino. It is a sub-species of the black bear. Both parents must have a recessive gene to make the black bear white. One family can consist of both black and white bears.

When it is born, the Kermode bear weights about 1/2 lb. A full grown adult weights up to 300. As with all species, mothers are very protective of their young. They learn to survive by watching her hunt. They stay with her from birth (Jan) until the salmon begin to run in the fall. Kermodes are gentle animals. They will not attack humans unless their cubs are in danger, or they are dying of starvation.


The territory of the Kermode is about 7.2 million hectares. They exist in the territory from Princess Royal Island to Prince Rupert Island, Terrace and East Hazelton. Most of the world's Kermode bears are found on Princess Royal Island. The island is also home to salmon, bald eagles, foxes and other animals.

The habitat of the Kermode is in grave danger. Logging companies have set their sights on the lush rainforests of the region. These areas are quickly disappearing. If the logging companies aren't stopped, the rainforests will be gone. If the Kermodes habitat disappears, the "Spirit Bear" will become extinct

The Kermode bear survived the ice age, but today there are less than 400 left in the world. This sub-species of the black bear is clearly in danger of extinction. The three logging giants responsible for 50% of Canada's rainforest logging are destroying the habitat that is critical for the Kermode's survival. In recent years, they have been clear-cutting (the felling and removal of ALL trees from a tract of forest) one acre of ancient forest every 66 seconds. Every remote, untouched, unprotected watershed in the Great Bear forest had been slated for logging within ten years. Clear-cutting causes mudslides, and erosion. It not only destroys the habitat of the Kermode, but also that of wolves, eagles and other species. The landscape left behind when the logging companies move out is unable to sustain any type of wildlife.

The Kermode bear is known to the Tsimshian People as "Moksgmol" - the spirit of the ancient rainforest. Thus the name, "Spirit Bear."

The north western rainforest of British Columbia is the only place on Earth where the Kermodes live.

Environmentalists want a large natural reserve of 150 islands set aside for a wildlife preserve. All logging operations would be prohibited.

The Kermode bear was first introduced to the scientific world by Dr. William Hornaday of the New York Zoo in 1905. He thought these bears were a separate species and named them "Kermode" after Canadian Francis Kermode, the director of the British Columbia Museum of Natural History.

Spirit Bears are protected by law. The black bears that carry the recessive gene, but do not have the coloration of the Kermodes are not.

The Kermode bear's fur protects it and keeps it warm and dry. It is made up of two kinds of hair. These bears have brown eyes and beige snouts. The claws are white and non-retractable. Their coats are the color of rich cream. Kermode bears are omnivorous (eat both meat and plants.) Like other bears, they love honey and will rob a bee's nest to get it. They also eat mice, grasshoppers, ants, roots, grass, berries, nuts, squirrels, salmon and other fish. They keep cool in summer by swimming and drinking huge amounts of water.

Kermodes snouts are short. Their sense of smell is sensitive, as is their sense of hearing. Their eyesight is poor and they are believed to be color blind.

Kermode bears are strong and can easily protect themselves for other animals. They try to avoid lynx, grizzlies and cougars, as well as humans. Their #1 enemy is man.

Quote from the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition website:

Due to the spirit bear’s color, it has the ability to catch more salmon. The more salmon it catches means more rotting fish carcasses deposited on the forest floor. This cycle provides the needed nutrients for the trees to grow and in turn, sustains one of the largest land carbon sinks in the world.

If you wish to learn more about the Spirit Bear Youth Coalition, you can find it

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Meet Meeko

I would like to introduce you to Meeko. He is a treasure to me. He is an Alaskan Malamute. We brought him into our home on December 1, 2000, just after my husband's heart bypass surgery.

Meeko was gray and white when we got him. He has black highlights now. He was born on August 31, 2000. He was very easy to house train but a little more stubborn about other training. I spent countless hours in obedience training. We took him to 3 dog obedience classes, which helped. He is very obedient now and does pretty much as he is told. The only thing that is negative about his behavior is that he runs if he gets loose. We run down the street after him and he stays just out of reach, tail held high and his tongue lolling. I sometimes think he is laughing at us.

Meeko is a loyal companion and very pack oriented. Even after seven years, he still howls when we leave the house. He dances in circles when we arrive home. He is very large, which can be very intimidating to people who don't know him. However, he is usually friendly when meeting people and other dogs on the street. When they come onto our property, that is another story. He is very protective of his territory.

Meeko is a beautiful dog. I enjoy having him around and swear he knows exactly what I'm saying when I talk to him. He is intelligence and gentle, even though he weighs 110 pounds. He is the perfect weight for his size.

I hope you enjoyed meeting Meeko. I will be sharing other things that are treasures to me in the coming days and weeks.

Meeko passed away in January 2009 of a tumor in his stomach. We still miss him everyday. 

About My Header

Years ago, my husband and I adopted a fat little puppy. She was so fat that she could barely walk. Cheyenne was half wolf and part German Shepherd. As she grew, she thinned out, her colors lightened and she was beautiful.

The man we adopted Cheyenne from was a Native American. He had lived in the very northern most part of Ontario. That's where he found a tiny female wolf cub that had either been abandoned by, or lost her mother. He took her home, bottle fed her and she grew into a beautiful wolf. He hadn't planned to breed her, but the neighbor's dog got loose and so she had a litter of eight puppies. Cheyenne was one of them.

We had Cheyenne for many years. She was protective when needed, but otherwise was a gentle dog. She loved playing with kids, going for a walk and running like the wind. Unfortunately, circumstances forced us to move and we couldn't take her. Fortunately, we found a good home for her on a farm. The family had four kids and they trained Cheyenne to pull their a sleigh.

Cheyenne was happy there. We kept in touch with the people for years. She died in 2001.

All this to say that my header is one that was made from a photo of Cheyenne. Isn't technology wonderful? This header is one of my treasures.

In the coming days and weeks, I will be posting stories and photos about the things that I treasure. I invite everyone who comes by to leave a comment and tell me about the things they treasure, whatever that may be.