Tuesday, January 7, 2020

artsPlace - 51° 05' 23" N 115° 21' 46"

When you live in Canmore, it is easy to focus on physical activity.  Cycling, downhill and cross-country skiing, climbing, hiking, running, canoeing ... the daylight seems to vanish from underneath us.  Winter brings colder temperatures and shorter bouts of sunshine, so we do find ourselves indoors and looking to fend off cabin fever.

As well as being a town full of active people, love of (and occupancy in) the mountains also inspires artistic endeavours.  There are many artists in our little berg and therefore the arts community is unusually strong.  We have no less than three theatre companies; there are more public and private galleries than you can shake a hiking pole at; the Bow Valley hosts the Banff Centre for Arts; there are world-class festivals for music, spoken word, painting, sculpture and written word.  Heck, we even have a former potter as a mayor.  One of the outcomes of this is we have a fabulous community gathering centre called artsPlace.

Artspace hosts a pottery studio (of course), gallery space, several classrooms and a large performance space that seats roughly 200 people.  We were attracted to an event there last year and have been going back almost weekly to different events.  Things we have seen there and things we are looking forward to include:

  • After the Fire - a live-actor play about the survivor guilt and aftermath of the fires in Fort McMurray in 2017
  • Pecha Kucha - a theme-based, storytelling night that shows 20 slides for 20 seconds per slide.
  • several movie nights of arthouse films, including Blinded By The Light and Where Did You Go, Bernadette?
  • screening and Q and A session of the documentary, We Will Stand Up.  We had elders from the Stoney band attend and give their (very interesting) opinions on the film afterwards.
  • Nakoda Language and Culture course, given over 10 evenings, where we will learn language (and therefore a bit about their perspective on the world) from a Nakoda elder.
We are very lucky to have such a great resource within walking distance of our home.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Pecha Kucha Night - 51° 05' 23" N 115° 21' 46"

Storytelling is an artform I've always wished I was better at. 

We have just returned from Pecha Kucha Night at Artspace and I have been dazzled by the stories I've just heard.  Pecha Kucha is a form of storytelling where you have twenty photos (or slides) that you use as visual aids.  Each slide is presented for twenty seconds, one after the other, and you have to speak to the group as they appear.  You can't pause the forward march of the pictures, nor can you jump ahead to the next one if you can't speak to one for the full twenty seconds.  At a Pecha Kucha event, there are usually six to eight presenters and they have all been given a theme to present on.

Tonight's theme was "What If ...".  One of the tales was from a woman in her mid-twenties who had been abruptly dumped out of a relationship in which her partner had convinced her to move to Canmore with him, even though she knew no one in the town or what she was going to do for employment.  When the relationship ended, she decided that she was still going to move there.  What If she hadn't?  

Another presentation was entitled, "What If Olive Could Talk?" and was given by a burly, gruff-looking bearded man.  Olive was his dog, whom he credits with rescueing him from depression and the talk documents how Olive watched him struggle with mental illness and eventually helped him bring it under control ... to the point where the two of them are now happy members of the Canmore community.

Another tale was of a woman who lost a child to kidney disease and found she could help others (and herself) in the grieving process by using her skills as a photographer to document the time spent in pallative care by capturing images of the family while there.  These were all very personal stories and quite touching.

I hope someday to have the skills (and the courage) to present at one of these events myself. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Quarry Lake - 51° 04' 49" N 115° 22' 30" W

Well that was chilly!  What a great cure for jetlag - run 5km in -12°C!

Jumping straight back into it with a Monday night Run Club run.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Out West - Drought and blowies - 32° 24' 17"S 148° 25' 38" E

Winter in these parts is the season when the rain falls and the crops grow.  Spring is when the crops are harvested, hay is cut and the livestock is chubby.  Except when the region is in drought. And this is what drought looks like...
Topsoil blowing in the wind turning the clouds pink

This drought in NSW started in 2017. This year is the third growing season in drought conditions.  This does not just affect the farmers but also the business owners in the towns, the price of grains and meat in the supermarkets and even Australia's trade balance.

This crop should be long and green and almost ready to harvest

Australia is no stranger to drought, it is dealt with in our folklore and our most famous poem (My Country by Dorothea Mackellar - see bottom of post) but it is always devastating to witness.

Pasture?  How can a sheep get fat on that?

The other joy of being in the drought-affected West are the blowies.  Don't fall over in horror - the blowie in Australia is the blowfly.  Australia has over 10,000 species of flies and they just love to socialize with humans. A favourite gathering place is on your back but they also love those moist patches in the corner of your eyes, your nostrils, the side of you mouth... In short, they can drive you insane.

Dry and waterless


Enter one of CSIRO's greatest inventions - Aerogard. Aerogard was initially developed to prevent fly blow in sheep.  With the advent of WWII, it was used to protect allied troops from mosquitos.  When The Queen visited Australia in 1963 and we used it on her to allow a blowie-free round of golf.  Following this, it went into commercial production and Aussies continue to "avagoodweekend and don't forget the Aerogard"! We were both very grateful to the CSIRO for creating the potion and to Craig for having the wisdom to carry it in his car! 

My Country by Dorothea Mackellar 

The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze …

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

How is that for some imagery?

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Parkes - 33° 08' 27" S 148° 10' 17" E

Since watching the movie 'The Dish", Sean has wanted to visit so with some time on our hands and the use of Craig's fully tricked-out Hilux, we headed west almost 400km to Parkes.

The Dish is more correctly known as CSIRO's (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) Parkes radio telescope. It is a 64m diameter parabolic dish used for radio astronomy. Basically it detects radio waves from objects in space and with some rather clever processing, turns these into images of the objects.

CSIRO"S Parkes radio telescope
At times, it is also contracted to NASA and ESA to receive signals from their space craft - Mariner II, IV, Apollo 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, Voyager II, Galileo, Giotto, Huygens...  It was the 1969 Apollo 11 mission with Parkes the prime receiving station, that is the subject of the movie. Although it did deviate from reality just a wee little bit.

It moved to its 'stowed' position when we were there as the winds
 were forecast to exceed its maximum operating winds speed
 of 35km/hr.  Watching it move was very cool!
Parkes is a working telescope, actually it is one of the world's leading radio telescopes, and tours started to interfere with the research.  Therefore tourists are no longer able to tour the actual dish but are compensated with an excellent visitors centre. This includes the sets from the movie which are deemed extraordinarily accurate.

The Dish has been significantly upgraded since it was built in 1961.  The basic structure had remained unchanged but it is now 10,000 times more sensitive than when it built.

Even the strongest signal from the cosmos can be very faint.
Mobile phones and even the microwave in the lunchroom can
cause nuisance when used during observations!

And a bit about the CSIRO - Australia's national science research agency.  Their website state we solve the greatest challenges using innovative science and technology. At the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), we shape the future.  We do this by using science to solve real issues to unlock a better future for our community, our economy, our planet. 

A few of the cool things the CSIRO have invented are:
  • WiFi
  • Plastic bank notes
  • Extended wear contact lenses
  • Aerogard

The gardens contain a variety of fabulous interpretive displays
and a direct descendant of Isaac Newton's famous apple tree!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Southport - 27° 58' 25" S 153° 25' 36" E

Eulogy to a Yellow Dinghy

After 10,000nm together and many grand adventures, we bid farewell to The Yellow Dinghy.  Her time had come.  Her slow leaks that required re-inflating each day had developed into terminal preforations, requiring a re-inflate every hour.  We took her to the dinghy repair place and the prognosis was not good.  Her glue is failing, her seams are no longer airtight; she is simply too unsafe.

You took us to the shore through calm and storm.  Onshore, left unattended, you entertained gaggles of squealing children of many nationalities ... some who had never seen a boat made of anything but wood.

Hours of fun for Indonesian Children!

You helped us cart hundreds litres of diesel and diesel-like fluid (measured in Indo-litres) back to Popeye to help us carry on through the tropics.  You bounced along happily behind Popeye across the tropics and the equator (!!!), waiting to serve.  You faithfully held OnePull, our beloved outboard, and allowed him to push you through the tropical brine (and occasionally rasp you over rock, sand and coral).  You far exceeded the duties you were designed for ... the whole time being super, super photogenic.  It was only near the end of your long life that your flaccidness failed to impress.  Still, you held a precious place in our hearts.

Farewell Yellow Dinghy, thanks for all the great service and fun times.

 Belitung - South Sumatra, Indonesia
Phang Nga Bay - Thailand
A grocery run - Ao Chalong - Phuket, Thailand
Her last trip - The dinghy dock, Southport, Australia

Ko Lanta - Thailand
Hole in The Wall - Langkawi, Malaysia
Ao Nang - Krabi, Thailand
Offloading cruising gear - Ao Kata -Phuket, Thailand
Ko Similan, Thailand
Hiding in the shadows in Bawean, Indonesia
Fuel run - Lewoleba, Lembata, Indonesia
Cid Harbour - The Whitsunday Islands, Australia
 Seagull perch - Stonehaven - The Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Tongue Bay – 20° 14’ 19” S 149° 00’ 55” E

This is not The Whitsundays at their sparkling best!  As predicted, the wind has swung around to the southeast and in true trade wind style, is blowing 20+ knots.  The wind has brought with it smoke from the bush fires further south and we are blanketed in a pinky-hued smog.

We are so pleased to be snug on a mooring and not bashing into it!  We are having a recovery day - stowing the race gear to turn Popeye back into a cruising boat, cleaning, cooking and reading while the wind whistles and the boat bounces on the mooring.  We are chasing down all the noises, squeaks and rattles that disturb the ambiance by tightening halyards, lashing lines and liberally spraying WD40.

And…  Sean has mastered the art of sourdough á la Popeye!

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Coral Sea – somewhere off Cape Bowling Green – 19° 16.974’S 147° 24.286’E

Last time we headed south through these waters, we were bashing into 20-30kn Trade Winds that kicked up the seas to a sporty 2.5m.  Popeye fell off waves, her flat bottom slapping and jarring our bodies and souls.  Our progress was a slow 4kn, it was night and our journey seemed endless.

Today we are skipping along on a flat, sparkling, turquoise sea under a cloudless blue sky.  We have 1-2 knots of wind gusting to a mighty 4 knots.  There are whales spouting and breaching in the distance and flying fish skimming across the water.   Other than having to motor, it is idyllic.

Oh may the winds always be fair – and in the right direction!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Canmore - 51° 4' 60" N 115° 22' 7" W

Gardening in AgCan Zone 3b

I am the daughter (and grand-daughter) of farmers.  Both my sisters are farmers.  A significant proportion of my uncles, aunts and cousins are farmers.  My DNA is farm girl.  I understand the cycle of the seasons, time of the year, the wet years, the dry years, the years with a caterpillar plague, the affect of hail on fruit crops and taste the winter turnips in the milk.  A vegetable garden is second nature, fruit trees grace the backyard and flowers and a lawn, a year round pleasure.  But I grew up on the Mornington Peninsula; Australian Plant Hardiness Zone 4 (or AgCan Zone 9) where snow is non-existent and a frost is rare.

Now I live in Canmore; AgCan Hardiness Zone 3b.

This is a foreign world.  The trees are bare branches from October to May. Perennials are the plants that poke through the dirt in late April and die in the first frost in September.  Annuals are plants we buy each year to fill our pots and hanging baskets.  They last the summer and die - a long lasting cut flower really.

In our new home, we have a back garden.  We are looking to plant some trees along the fence.  How about some fruit trees?  Then we can pick our own fruit in the autumn and we'll have blossoms in the spring.  Fabulous!  Errr no.  We live in Canmore, in bear country.  We are not allowed to plant fruit trees as they attract the bears.

Okay, how about a nice cyprus hedge?  Lovely green and we won't clip it, just allow it to be wild and scraggy.  Hahaha!  Zone 3b remember?  Waaaay too cold for cyprus (seriously??).

Indian Paintbrush
Castilleja miniata
Right then, Mr Google, what can we plant?  Ahh birch trees.  Paper Birch, I love the colour and the way the bark peels.  Let's plant paper birch.  Hmmm, nope!  Whilst the Paper Birch is a Zone 3 tree, they are not Chinook tolerant.  For those unfamiliar with the Chinook, they are a wind, a warm wind that can raise the temperature 20°C in several hours.  To the non-Chinook tolerant tree, it thinks woohoo, it's Spring and sap starts pumping up its trunk to nourish the buds and then, bam, we are back to minus 30°C, the sap freezes, expands and thus kills the tree.  Ouch.

So to the tree nursery we go.  We pay a fortune for a few sticks that I am assured will turn into trees.  Several Trembling Aspen, a couple of River Birch and, the sole evergreen, a Rocky Mountain Fir which in 20 years may top the fence.  Trees done, now to flowers....

But I am smarter now.  Let's plant wild flowers in the garden.  They are native, they will grow!  I order wildflower seeds from a reputable nursery.  I buy a "High Diversity Wildflower Mix", Harebell, Indian Paintbrush and Brown Eyed Susan. Totally suitable for our steep garden, well drained, part shade...

Then I read the instructions:

I guess we are not having wildflowers this year, or next year....

Thursday, March 7, 2019

International Women's Day

I was chatting to my Mum today who was just home from the funeral of Nancy Stephens.  She described the funeral as lovely and went on to say what a huge support and mentor Nancy had been to her as a young mother in a small town far from family.  I then happened to read Jac Stephens’ beautiful post to her mother and her “Sticky Lemon Delicious Cake” on Facebook.  And Richard Cornish posted about his Mum on International Women’s Day, the beautiful words he posts each year and never fail to send a shiver down my spine. 

I look at the family and the community I grew up in and see, not just an idyllic childhood of farms, beaches, horses, sailing and home-baked cakes but also the number of extraordinary women who influenced our world.

From my grandmother who was widowed in the late 1940s with three small children, who ran an orchard and privately educated her children, to my mother who believed her girls could … so we did.  There was the big group of kids who travelled an hour each way to the private schools of Toorak, Peninsula and Woodley because our parents wanted to ensure we had a progressive education.

The women who did, because they just did: Robyn Cornish, also widowed young with four small kids who ran a dairy farm; Sue Lawson, through whom a generation learnt to ride; Margaret Bell, our kindy teacher and later a politician and to this day I remain both in awe and just a little bit scared; Betty Taylor; Judy Hines; Nancy Stephens; Isabelle Trahair, our baby sitter who taught us to deal a mean Canasta hand; Sue Winneke, one of Victoria’s first women barristers, who told me being a female engineer would be tough but get over it.  And so, so many others…

And I watch as this amazing group of women, now mostly into their eighties, support each other through divorce, widowhood, ill-health and all the associated joys of ageing.  And all the while they still live on their farms, maintain their large gardens, grow veggies, bake and make jam.

On this International Women’s Day, thanks to all the amazing female role models of Flinders/Shoreham/Main Ridge/Red Hill who, by doing, allowed us to believe that girls could do anything – and guess what?  As it turns out that, we can!