Archive for December, 2011
This year, it seems that many fellow bloggers have been assembling a sort of year-end roundup of noteworthy posts. I don’t recall having done so the past, but thought I would give it a shot. I’m including a few photos and events that were never blogged about due to lack of time and energy on my part.
If there is a theme for this year, it is probably People. This was the year in which friends and family came and went through my crazy mixed-up world, or in which I visited others during my nomadic wanderings. Last winter, friends flew from Ontario and British Columbia to visit me while I was down in Bisbee. We did quite a bit of walking around town and a couple of friends lucked on to being here in time for the Central School Project Mystery Ball, in which I had an installation entitled, Life’s Little Mysteries (click on that link to see photos of some of the pieces which were part of my installation).
My winter in Bisbee ended with seeing in the new season of moths and butterflies, and painting an art chair which was later donated to a silent auction fundraiser for the new Montessori school here in town. Soon after, I was headed northward back to my home in Ontario, and later onwards, to the old house which I’m restoring at Round Hill, Nova Scotia. Speaking of the old house, I decided to kick off this post with a pairing of the first photo I took of the front of the house in April 2010, and the most recent photo which was taken in late September 2011. As you can see, the place is looking much happier these days (click on these and most of the other photos in this post to see larger views). This coming summer, I will rebuild all the original windows for the downstairs (upstairs was done this past summer). I intend to get the well and water system operational again, along with a bunch of other tasks.
This summer saw many changes at the Round Hill house. I’ll insert the odd link to what were, for me, major developments. The first of these was the planting of several new rhododendrons, along with seeing how those I planted last year made out.
During my time at Round Hill, several new people came into my life while I worked away on the old house. The first of these was Jerry, a Swedish couchsurfer, who asked to spend a day or two at my place before going on to do some woofing (working in exchange for living with families) on a lobster boat, and then a whale watch tour boat. Jerry was to return and spend a couple of more days at my place before returning to Sweden. We have kept in touch by skype and email as we share many interests. He is a retired museum curator from Stockholm, and as some of you may know, I have an Art History degree. Both of us have studied West Coast art of the First Nations, so it turned out that we had quite a bit to talk about.
During Jerry’s first visit to my place, he and I became acquainted with Nicole and Stewart who own Whippletree Farm, a CSA (community supported agriculture) organic farm which happens to be just a stone’s throw down the road from my old house at Round Hill. Jerry snapped this great photo of Nicole while she was at her table at the Annapolis Royal Farmers’ Market early this summer. Over the course of the season, I enjoyed plenty of nice produce purchased from the Whippletree table each Saturday morning when I dropped by the market. Although I had my own vegetable garden, it was fun to see what was available from Nicole and Stewart as they grow many varieties of heritage vegetables.
Later this summer, another couchsurfer came into my life – Faustine, from Lyons, France. Faustine is a wonderful graphic artist who designs and illustrates books, websites, and many other types of media. She was looking for an organic farm on which to spend a short time woofing while in the Annapolis Valley region. Although I did not have suitable work for her, I spoke to Nicole and Stewart and they were pleased to have Faustine visit for a few days. I picked Faustine up in Grand Pré, and took her for a small side trip to visit Canning Daylily Gardens where she helped me choose an assortment of beautiful daylilies to bring home to my garden at Round Hill. Afterwords, we stopped to visit a very cool house being renovated by another friend who I met online last summer. We had quite a fun day touring around the Valley before I dropped Faustine off at Whippletree Farm. I have met several nice people through Couchsurfing, and can say that every visitor has brought something positive to my life.
As summer progressed, I spent evenings pursuing my usual form of relaxation, photographing night moths. By day, I also watched for butterflies to photograph in an effort to contribute records to the Maritimes Butterfly Atlassing project. This was a cool and rainy summer in the Atlantic provinces, so my sightings were rather few in number, but I look forward to a better season in 2012.
In June, I acquired a gas-powered weed eater machine and began clearing walking trails throughout the property, and a place to sit down by Round Hill Brook. If you happen to follow that link, you will also see that I began tackling the replastering of the upstairs of the house – an activity that was to keep me quite busy for the remainder of my stay.
In August, the interior of the house had progressed to the point that I felt ready to invite my mom and youngest brother to come for a visit. The above photo is a scene from the front garden where we pitched a tent for extra space, and set up the barbecue and a little fire pot. In the evenings, my brother and I sat out in the garden playing musical instruments and looking up at the incredibly starry night skies for which this part of Nova Scotia is so well known.
By day, we worked on the house, with my mom and brother helping me with some tasks which I had had trouble getting around to — changing light fixtures, buying and hauling home a full size refrigerator, repairing a section of cornice moulding that was too high for me to safely reach. My mother took on the job of doing much of the rebuilding of the upstairs windows. She hates being photographed, but I did manage to snap the above photo of her scraping off some fake stained glass mac-tac stuff that was stuck to one of the windows in the upstairs hall.
Randy and I also escaped for a couple of afternoons to explore the upper reaches of Round Hill Brook – a small river that flows past my property. On one afternoon, we took a couple of inexpensive inflatable kayaks that we got at Canadian Tire Store, and went paddling through the most beautiful stretch of river flowing through wetlands and forest. It was a wonderful day and made me all the more determined to bring my canoe out from Ontario to Nova Scotia to use this summer. The Annapolis Valley is one of the best canoeing regions in Nova Scotia, so I hope to do more exploring of the lakes and rivers in 2012.
By summer’s end it really felt like the house at Round Hill was taking shape in a good way. I must admit that, from time to time, I have felt like it was too crazy a project – and in fact, it actually is — but at least the place is becoming inhabitable and closer to my goal as a summer studio where family and friends can hang out to relax, play music, create art, and observe nature.
Soon enough, it was time to head west to Ontario to take care of some of the more mundane aspects of my life, such as getting maintenance done on the van in preparation for the long migration to Bisbee. It’s also a good time to get together with old friends whom I’ve known from over three decades spent on our farm in eastern Ontario. Although the farm is gone, my friends remain. It’s fun to touch base whenever we can all arrange our schedules to get together.
As autumn came to an end, it was time to think about my southward journey. This year, I chose to cut across the midwest, reversing the route which I first tried this past spring. I must admit to not caring much for the route, but it was made considerably pleasanter and entertaining by a a brief meet-up with blogger friend, Larry Ayers while I was passing through Illinois enroute to a stop-off at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, before continuing on to Bisbee.
Once in Bisbee, life maintained a hectic pace, with a visit to see Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen’s exhibit at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, in Tucson. This was followed by the Central School Project’s Hallowe’en bash featuring mambo bands. I dressed up as a Catrina character, the female skeleton from Day of the Dead celebrations – see my photo below. Unfortunately, as I’m not accustomed to wearing makeup of any kind, my eyes became so irritated that even after the makeup was long gone, I went around looking like a zombie with very bloodshot eyes for several days.
The last major event of the year was the Cochise College Pit Fire Party in November. Beyond that, I’ve just been getting rested up from the demanding season of work on the old house and its property. Already, I am making job and material lists for the coming season’s work. However, I’m trying to make time for a bit of socializing (but I am still quite the hermit), and some music. Also, I seem to get myself into occasional trouble at the local thrift shops – as evidenced by the above pair of scorpion cowboy boots.
As this year comes to a close, I have been reflecting upon how things are going in my life. Being without Don hasn’t actually gotten any easier. In fact, I would say that this past week of xmas holiday has ranked right up there among the worst for sadness and loneliness. However, brushing that aside, I guess I am doing okay for about 39 months of being alone. This past year has seen me become somewhat more comfortable with being almost constantly alone between the occasional comings and goings of visitors. It still feels strange and I wish I could return to my old life, but that’s impossible, so I carry on. At least I can say that life has not been too boring – I manage to keep things rolling along at a pretty good clip.
Best wishes to friends and family in the coming year.
I’m doing some catching up on posts that I meant to put together over a month ago. One of the reasons that I arrived in Bisbee a little earlier than usual this season, was to attend the fifth annual Cochise College Pit Fire Party on November 10, 2011. A pit fire is a method of firing ceramics in outdoor pits. Bisque fired pottery with glaze applied, are arranged in the bottom of a large pit, then covered over with flammable materials such as paper and wood – everything from sticks, to wooden pallets. This year’s firing pit was about 185 feet long and 4 feet wide and serpentine in shape. You can see the unlit materials above the pit in the above photo (click on all photos for larger views). The fire becomes quite large and extremely hot, so firefighters were in attendance for the entire evening.
A number of activities took place throughout the evening — there was a marquis tent where you could get free soup or chili to fill the ceramic bowls which were given to each visitor who paid five dollars to become a Friend of the Cochise College Art Department. Several local bands provided musical entertainment, and Flam Chen entertained with fire dancers and acrobats. Around dusk, members of the Cochise College rodeo team cantered up to the pit and circling around a couple of times, threw flaming brands onto the combustible materials to set them alight.
Once lit, the fire grew immense in short order. As the fire burnt its way along the length of the pit, the heat given off was quite extraordinary.
Pyrotechnic acrobats and dancers of the Flam Chen performing troupe, entertained those gathered to watch the progress of the fire.
Later in the evening, the acrobats led visitors to the stage area where they performed for awhile before handing over the stage to the musicians.
A large ceramic sculpture was fired inside of an interesting sawdust-fired kiln that was set up and tended by W. Lowell Baker, Professor of Art, at the University of Alabama (see below). I stood watching how the fire was supplied with sawdust. Quite fascinating. The heat generated by this kiln was pretty awesome. I didn’t stay all evening, but did put in a couple of successful bids in the silent auction fundraiser. Next post, I’ll put up some photos of the pieces I brought home from the evening event.