Tuesday, August 20, 2019

First year of cabin building completed

The Dockhouse

Photovoltaic panel runs a 13-cubic-foot solar fridge

Crane helps lift heavy objects from boat
We have been out of Internet range most of the summer as we worked on our cabin project at Red Lake, thus the lack of postings.
Stage One is mostly completed now. We have a building we call the Dockhouse to live in while we build the main cabin next summer. Until now we were staying in a tent.
The Dockhouse is a 12x24 building erected right next to our new dock. 
The dock and its landing are important parts of the infrastructure needed for the bigger cabin construction.
The dock, Dockhouse and septic system installed in May are our accomplishments for 2019.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Before the 'story of dead, white men'

I believe the readers of this blog are pretty well-read so let me ask you this question: In the late-1700s New York City became the largest city in North America, north of Mexico. What city previously held the title?
Come on now; you studied history in high school and maybe university too, you must have learned this. Well, so did I and if you are like me you will be floored by the answer: Cahokia.
Cahokia? Where is Cahokia?
It was in what is now Southern Illinois. It was abandoned in the year 1200 after being occupied for 500 years. In its day it was larger than London, England. You've heard of London, haven't you?
Everybody has heard of London. So why not Cahokia?
The answer, I'm ashamed to say, is because history -- as recorded in books and taught in our schools -- is the story of dead white men. They are all dead; they were all white, and they were all men. No wonder it is so boring.

Cahokia had a population back then of about 15,000 and if you included suburbs -- yes, it even had suburbs -- took in nearly 50,000 people! It was one of the largest cities in the world. You would think this would be common knowledge, wouldn't you?
If you have heard of Cahokia at all I bet it is for its 'mounds.'  In fact we called the people who lived east of the Mississippi River for 2000 years 'Mound builders.' That is a pretty denigrating term. They don't sound too smart, do they? Funny we didn't call them 'Pyramid makers' because many of those mounds, from Florida to Canada, were once pyramids!
If you want a paradigm-shifting experience, get the Ancient Civilizations of North America course from The Great Courses company. It is taught by Professor Edwin Barnhart, director of the Maya Exploration Center and a PhD of Anthropology from the University of Texas.
It is a revelation what archeology and anthropology tell about the past, our past.
The first city east of the Mississippi was built about 1,500 years BCE which is the politically correct way of saying before Christ. That was a long time ago. It had 5,000 inhabitants.
These people were surveyors, astronomers, architects and social planners.
They built many Woodhenges -- like Stonehenge, only out of wood -- all over the place. Out on the Plains and Prairies people made what we have come to call Medicine Wheels for the same purpose -- astronomical observation -- and for other reasons that to this day we can't figure out. They have been in continuous use for 6,000 years.
These ancient people built hundreds of miles of irrigation canals in the desert and apartment buildings up to four stories high and with as many as 1,500 units.
They had extensive road networks all over North America. Copper miners from Lake Superior could move their ore all the way down to kingdoms in Florida in just weeks.
Eventually they had vast agricultural complexes. It has been said there is more forest in the eastern half of the U.S. today than at first contact with Europeans; that is how much land was in cultivation 500 years ago.
They numbered in the tens of millions, at least, and their civilization was one of the most advanced in the world.
So what happened? Well, first of all let me point out they are still here; they are the First Nations peoples of North America. Archeology shows they have been here for at least 14,000 years and maybe for as long as 30,000 years. Their history as shown through archeology is nothing short of awesome.
But in short, those first Europeans brought diseases that in a matter of decades killed 90 per cent of the population. Ninety per cent! By comparison, the Black Death in the Middle Ages killed 40 per cent of Europeans. We all know about The Plague. It was written about extensively by, you guessed it, dead white men. Well the North American "Plague" that hit Indigenous Peoples was more than twice as lethal! It all but wiped out entire nations and the ones left were attacked on all sides by the invading Europeans.
Actually N. America's was far worse
You can learn all about what happened after contact in this Great Courses program: Native Peoples of North America. It isn't pretty. However, if we are ever to achieve reconciliation with First Nations in our countries we must first have all the facts. Before you get too bummed-out remember that despite the plague and the genocide, there are still First Nations alive and well today. They have made it against all odds.

The Great Courses are university-level courses that you can watch on your computer or smart phone or listen to in your car. There are usually 36 or so half-hour lectures per course. They are taught by top instructors in their fields.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Construction begins on our cabin

There was plenty of sandy-loam that is ideal for septic system

New boat worked great. Now we need a dock!
We have broken ground on our new cabin, literally. Last week we installed an EcoFlo peat moss septic system. This is the same type of system used at the camp. It filters effluent to near-drinking water standards before discharging into the soil.
Brenda, Cork and I will be on site at various times all summer now building the rest of what is needed. We start with a dock, then a shed, then the cabin.
I got to use our new (to us) 20-foot Eastern boat last week and just love it. This craft has a "Downeast" hull style that should make the trip to town on windy days a breeze (pun intended).
It can also be used for fishing.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Fifty-year-old mystery solved

A good friend, Doug Billings, sent me a link to a video the other day that sheds light on one of the eeriest things that I have ever experienced. It happened 50 years ago while I was walking one night from the old lodge, now Cabin 3, to my little log cabin. This was a relic from the gold rush that used to sit down near the water in front of where Cabin 8 is now located. There was no one in camp other than my Dad and me.
I was following the narrow footpath using my flashlight when this blood-curdling sound came from the other side of the narrows, actually right where we plan to build our new cabin this summer. It was a loud moan, a cry, a wail, a scream. It lasted for maybe 10 seconds, then after a pause, it started up again
I flew back to the lodge.
"Dad! Dad! There's a weird sound coming from across the narrows. Come quick!"
Dad had been about to get in bed but now he quickly pulled his boots back on.
"What do you think it is?" he asked.
"I don't know! I've never heard anything like it. It sounds like a woman, a woman screaming in pain!"
We both ran out to the point in front of Cabin 3. The sound immediately came shrieking from across the narrows, only this time from a spot farther to the south than where I first heard it.
"It's moving!" I exclaimed.
Again and again the sound came wailing out of the bush, probably 600 yards away. Whatever was making it was definitely heading toward Trout Bay. It was now climbing the mountain right across the narrowest part of the narrows.
I was shaking with fear as I listened to it, all the while trying to reason what it could be. It wasn't a moose, not a wolf, certainly not an owl. And it couldn't be human because who would climb a steep mountain in the dark, especially if he or she was in agony?
"What do you think it is?" I asked.
To my astonishment, Dad said, "I actually don't hear anything. Well, I've got to get to bed. It's going to be a long day tomorrow."
A lifetime of loud noises without ear protection had ruined his hearing.
He went back inside.
I raced to my cabin, grabbing the axe as I went inside. I got into bed wearing all my clothes, including my boots. I wanted to be able to make a hasty exit if necessary. As I lay there trembling with my axe in hand, a Great Horned Owl landed on the roof and started hooting. I never did get to sleep.
Here is the link to the video.

Friday, May 17, 2019

As predicted, Red Lake ice-out was May 15

I talked to Brian at the camp today and he said ice-out was May 15, just as we figured way back in mid-April (see My System Predicting Red Lake's Ice-out).

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Great website shows ice-out status

Wow, check out this website that shows up-to-date aerial views of ice-out progress from Wabigoon Lake to Lake of the Woods.
Do a search for "Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol."

Wish we had this kind of look farther north to Red Lake.

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Whitefish Lake clear of ice May 5, 2019

Yeah, baby! This is what we wanted to see!
Cork and I drove out to Whitefish Lake today expecting to see it covered in ice and instead saw this man launching his boat! The ice broke up a couple of days ago, he said.
Whitefish Lake is about 60 kms (35 miles) southwest of Thunder Bay.
In some Internet searching this morning I also found that Lake of the Woods is mostly clear of ice. Eagle Lake is starting to breakup too. The ice sheet is shifting and smashing.
The news isn't as rosy for Red Lake, 110 miles north of Eagle Lake. Melting has occurred right at the shoreline but it doesn't appear any shifting is going on. The high there today was expected to only be 3 C or just above melting. Warmer temps are coming but will remain below normal.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Now we get another inch of snow

Here in Nolalu today's snow adds to about three inches that had yet to melt from the six inches we got a few days ago. Red Lake also got an inch today but they escaped the earlier dump.
Temperatures are way below normal and are expected to stay that way for about a week. What does this mean for ice-out? It sets it back by at least a few days for Red Lake and maybe a week down here near Thunder Bay.
For Red Lake, I now expect ice-out to be back to May 15.

Monday, April 29, 2019

'Cruelest Month' is almost over

Scene out our window in Nolalu today
There is nothing more depressing than a blizzard in the spring. It started this morning and the snow is expected to continue for the next few days although the bulk of it should come down today. Here in Nolalu we are expecting 5-15 cms (2-6 inches). Rats!
I knew it had to happen because the robins showed up about a week ago and robins are always snowed upon. Talk about a bittersweet moment: you see the first robin and you say "Yay! Spring is here!" and then you think, "Oh, no! It is going to snow some more."
The truth however is we have been blessed by beautiful spring weather. The snow had almost totally disappeared and the ground was drying up nicely. The melt occurred gradually enough that there was no flooding. We are so much more fortunate than our friends in Eastern Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick where record floods are all occuring.
There are only three weeks to go before the start of fishing season! Will there be open water? It looks that way. Although the weather has cooled off from what it was the last two weeks, everything is still melting. Red Lake missed this snowfall and that's a plus. Such an event always sets things back until the snow is melted.
I'm sticking with my 2019 ice-out or breakup forecast for Red Lake of May 12.  Come on sunshine! I want to have a fish fry!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Lovely weather could speed-up ice-out

Warm, sunny days and above-freezing temperatures at night the last couple of weeks should put the 2019 ice-out on Red Lake, Ontario back nearer the average date of May 8. Colder-than-normal conditions the first two weeks of April had me speculating in the last posting that the breakup would come a week later -- May 15. Maybe I'll split the difference now and pick May 12.
Incidentally, my predictions are for when a boat can travel on Howey Bay, the bay right in front of town. It is usually the last place to melt.
Walleye season opens May 18. It is always the third Saturday in May.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My system predicting Red Lake's ice-out

I've got a pretty good track record for picking the date for ice-out on Red Lake, usually pinpointing it within a few days. I thought others might be interested in how I do this.
First of all, I don't make my prediction until April. That is when spring melting actually begins and it is the weather in this month that accounts for 75 per cent of the timing of ice-out. The other 25 per cent comes from the weather in the first week of May.
I am emphasizing this to keep you from going down the rabbit hole of believing that last winter's conditions have anything to do with it. They simply do not.
I don't know how many times I have heard people say that because they had to put extensions on their ice augurs in March that breakup would be exceptionally late and then the actual date was early. Or the opposite situation: there was less ice than normal so ice-out would be early -- except it wasn't.
Trust me on this; I've only seen it about 60 times.
Now, let's start with the fact that Red Lake's average ice-out date is May 8. That is just a fact gleaned from nearly a hundred years of data. Except for a handful of years, all the other ice-out dates are within one week either side of May 8. OK? So, you could say that normal ice-out is from May 1 to May 15. May 8 is right in the center.
When April comes around start paying attention to the highs and lows and how they compare to the averages for that date. The Weather Network conveniently does this for you in a graph on their 14-Day forecast.
If the temperatures are exactly normal all the time guess when ice-out will be? May 8! Do you see where this is going? Days below normal add to the time of ice-out and days above normal subtract.
I don't actually keep track of the days but rather the weeks. A week above normal moves the date to May 1. But if that is followed by a week below normal the date is back to May 8.
Finally, there are a couple of fudge factors. For instance how abnormal were the highs and lows for the weeks? If the deviation was only a few degrees, it will hardly make any difference, a day or two, for instance. If the temperatures are way out of whack, like 10 C, for most of the week, then it could move ice-out by an extra week.
A few other factors, like wind and rain, also play a marginal role. High winds, especially near May 8, will hasten the process. Rain any time does the same thing.
So, starting April 1 each year you can look ahead at the forecast and start to get an idea for your prediction then refine it as time goes on and you observe what actually happens weather-wise.
It's a fun thing to do while you anxiously wait for open water!
I'll just bring you up to date by telling you that the first two weeks of April were below normal but not critically so. That makes me move the ice-out date to about May 15.

Monday, April 15, 2019

'Where the heck have I been?'

I won't go into detail here but I've experienced an interruption this spring that has kept me from blogging.
If all goes well I hope to be driving nails on the new cabin all summer and won't have access to the Internet. So it could be next fall before my blog schedule returns to normal.
Since I know it is of interest to a great many people, let me just report that spring breakup of area lakes, including Red Lake, is very unlikely to be early and could be late. Average ice-out for Red Lake is May 8.
It was a cold winter but we have learned over the years that winter ice and snow depth don't make much difference on breakup times. What matters the most is the weather in April. To date the temperatures in April have been below normal. It looks like the forecast for the next couple of weeks is for warming but still not where it should be.
On the good side there haven't been many spring snowfalls that set everything back.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Our winter guest is on his way again

I have finally got my computer back now that our winter guest has left. Harry took off this morning after spending two months in Nolalu.
Things were difficult at first because we didn't speak Harry's tongue. But then we stumbled on the universal language -- YouTube. Harry loved to listen to music on YouTube all day long. Harry was a teenager.
It was pure luck that we even met Harry. He was born in the Northwest Territories and was on his way to visit relatives in Texas for the winter when he decided to take a "little side trip" and ended up stranded 1,500 miles northeast of his destination. It was a lapse in judgment but who among us didn't make a few mistakes when we were teenagers?
He was ill-prepared to spend the winter in the Boreal Forest. He wasn't dressed for the cold, for one thing. One day in mid-January I saw him fall over in the snow and quit moving. It was -25 C and that didn't count the wind chill. Of course I ran out and picked him up and brought him inside. After a couple of hours he regained consciousness so we made a little place for him and he stayed. He liked the food, especially the meat.
"Harry, you need to eat something besides meat," I would say. "Here, try some of these whole grains."
He would turn his back and look out the window while listening to his favourite YouTube channel. Harry was a teenager.
All in all, he was quiet and well-behaved and we got along with him just fine. But during the past week I could tell he wanted to be on his way. His appetite seemed off and he stared out the window wistfully. Fortunately the weather has warmed up. The temperature reached the melting point today for the first time in months and the sunshine felt just like spring had arrived. So we wished him well and watched him take off, free as a bird which, of course, is what he was, a Harris's Sparrow.
I guess I'll give the remainder of the mealworms we had bought for him to the chickadees. I might continue playing his music -- 10 hours of bird calls on YouTube. It really is spring-like.
Harry gets his bearings on the driveway after spending two months in a cage inside. An immature Harris's Sparrow, he is beginning to develop black throat feathers that are the hallmark of his species.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Here comes the sun!!!

Hope to finish woodshed this weekend. Large bump at right is propane tank buried in 3 feet of snow.
And we say, "It's all right!"
After a cold and snowy winter, the forecast from here on out is for average-to-above average temperatures.
There is a lot of snow to melt so depending on how fast that happens we could be in for some flooding. I have heard that the Red River in North Dakota and Manitoba is predicted to flood.
The best scenario is when the melting occurs gradually which is usually what happens. I would expect most Northwestern Ontario lakes will be higher than normal after ice-out and that's a good thing. Northern pike love to spawn in lowland areas around lakes that are only underwater for a month or so. These spots are clear of silt and allow the eggs to get plenty of oxygen.
The melting snow will also raise the water table in the ground and that might reduce the spring and early summer forest fire danger.
Yeppurs, spring is coming!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Stellar year for birds at the feeders

The yellow, black and white Evening Grosbeaks join the more common Pine Grosbeaks and Bluejays
Chickadee takes shelter from the wind among the lilacs beside the house
This is the best winter we have ever seen for numbers and variety of birds at our birdfeeders.
The harsh temperatures and three feet of snow might have something to do with that; however by all reports we are still more fortunate than others.
One of the biggest surprises has been large numbers of Evening Grosbeaks. These gaudy, parrot-like finches are here every day whereas in the past they might only appear a couple of times all winter,
Pine Grosbeaks are just as numerous. Bluejays are the other large birds at the sunflower platform feeder.
Common Redpolls have the top numbers for the small birds. They are followed by Chickadees, Goldfinches, Juncos and Redbreasted Nuthatches.
There are probably four pairs each of Hairy Woodpeckers and Downy Woodpeckers.
Every so often a couple of Crows also show up.
Alhough they don't come to the feeders, other birds we see are Pileated Woodpeckers, Ravens, Bald Eagles and Ruffed Grouse.
I have not seen any hawks or owls.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Children now the only adults in the room

We live in unprecedented times. You hear this every day. But the ultimate example is that little children are now our only leaders. While their parents and grandparents sit like stoned zombies as the clock runs out on keeping our planet livable little kids are taking action. They realize that it is their future that is being squandered.
School kids everywhere have for years been the best recyclers and reducers of waste. They have been making posters, planting trees and writing stories on how to save the planet which they instinctively know is their one and only home. These were things that little people could do. They are too young to drive so they can't make choices on what type of family vehicle is best for the environment. They can't vote for adults to represent them in government. They would seem to be the most helpless members in society to affect change. Well, no more. Now they are organizing and taking the U.S. government to court.
They must hurry because if they wait to become adults to take action their brains will be so loaded with hydrocarbon particles from breathing gas and diesel fumes they will end up sitting in a stupor just like the old folks. CBC television's The Nature of Things revealed new research that is finding hydrocarbon particulates penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Brains of people who are exposed to lots of auto fumes resemble those with Alzheimer's.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Check out this moon; it's Super

Moonrise is a big event at our house, just because we have such a good view to the east. This Super Moon, so called because the moon is closer to the Earth than normal, was one of the best on Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Do we need to quit eating meat?

This is one of the more popular myths you hear about fighting climate change. The usual story goes that it takes so much fuel and chemicals to raise animals -- actually always depicted as beef -- that if we really are serious about fighting "the global warming thing" we should only eat lentils, wear sandals and dress in sack cloth.
Have you heard that cow farts and belches contribute to greenhouse gas too? Of course you have. That is because the richest and most powerful industry and lobby in the world, the fossil fuel industry, is keeping this and many other ridiculous stories alive through their well-heeled propaganda machines. Just Google "climate change skeptic organizations" for a list. They are using the same tactics formerly employed by the tobacco industry to sow doubt and confusion on a subject for which science reached a conclusion many decades ago.
Here is the real story: 83 per cent of each individual's contribution to climate change comes from his burning of fossil fuels either in his vehicle or to heat or cool his buildings. Cow farts and people's farts, for that matter, fall within the remaining 17 per cent of our carbon footprint. They are spit in the ocean compared to the big problems.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we need to cut our fossil fuel use by 45 per cent in just the next 12 years or it will be too late to prevent catastrophe.
I've been thinking about our own situation. We actually reduced our gasoline use by 50 per cent  when we owned the camp by switching to four-cycle outboard engines. That was 15 years ago. Although we had to borrow in order to make that switch the savings in gas paid for the loan.
It seems to me this is always the case: spend a little to save a lot.
Now that we have retired we have cut our use of propane for home heating by installing a high efficiency wood burning stove and building a sun room. The sun room heats the house on sunny days and the stove heats it mornings and evenings and on cloudy days. We still rely on the high efficiency furnace at night. Will we cut our propane use by 45 per cent? We will know in a couple of months when our propane tank is refilled but my guess is there will be a substantial reduction.
We have already witnessed a 30 per cent reduction in our electricity or hydro bill. There are two reasons for that: we switched to an on-demand propane hot water system, and we have not needed to supplement our furnace with electric space heaters. In the past we used the space heaters during especially bitter nights. This year the wood stove has provided the extra needed BTUs. The propane water heater does, of course, use a fossil fuel. Our electricity does not; it comes from a hydro dam in Kakabeka Falls. However the money we save from not keeping a 30-gallon tank perpetually hot in the basement can be used toward other fossil fuel cuts, like a hybrid car when we are ready for a new vehicle.
Incidentally, next to solar and wind energy firewood is about as green a fuel as can be. Burning it does emit carbon dioxide but growing new trees takes the carbon back out of the atmosphere. Certainly it can't be used in cities but it is a viable alternative for people like us who live in the country and grow our own trees. Our high efficiency Napoleon stove is practically smokeless.
Other fuel-saving things we have done over the years include triple-glazed windows and an original house design that maximized solar gain and insulation as well as controlling air movement with enclosed door entries. Ventilation comes from a heat recovery system.
Any further carbon reductions will probably need to come from our vehicles. My four-cylinder truck although 10-years old is still about as fuel thrifty as more modern models although they are more powerful. Our three-year-old Grand Caravan gets amazing mileage on long trips but could be better for around town.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Beautiful sundog this morning

It was a beautiful, if cold, morning in Nolalu today. This lovely sundog greeted us right after dawn. The temperature at our home was -24 C and the vicious winds of yesterday are gone. I got chilled to the bone yesterday snowblowing the driveway as I cleaned up from Wednesday and Thursday's dump of snow. All told we probably got 15 cm or about six inches. It was the second such snowfall in a week. We now have about 30 inches on the ground.
Temperatures are more or less normal for this time of year. Nobody misses the -40 C stuff we had two weeks ago.

First year of cabin building completed

The Dockhouse Photovoltaic panel runs a 13-cubic-foot solar fridge Crane helps lift heavy objects from boat We have been out o...