Printemps, Poutine and Le Pont Rouge

We live on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River, where the national dish is poutine. Poutine is an ungodly mixture of french fries, topped with cheese curds and smothered in gravy. And it is delicious! I know! I know! Sounds disgusting, but trust me on this...it's the perfect food for a Sunday afternoon drive, sitting at a picnic table with a checkered table cloth, and looking at all things springy.
This aptly named little Chipping Sparrow was right above my head, watching me closely, and calculating how long it would take to dip and dive and return with a chip for him. Forget it! I'm not sharing today!
The picnic table was just outside the chip truck - a converted school bus that's now a fully functioning kitchen on wheels. Only this one had a lovely plastic porch attached so it wasn't actually mobile anymore - not that anyone was asking for their vendor's permit - we were all too busy eating poutine and enjoying the spectacular view...
This beautiful covered bridge sits over the Ottawa River, and enables traffic from the mainland to Calumet Island.
It is the largest covered bridge in Quebec. Built in 1898 it spans 497 feet, for single lane traffic  only.
Fortunately, you can see clearly if anyone else is on the bridge before you commit yourself to its wooden roadway.

Leaves everyone feeling very chipper once they've made the  passage safely. And landed right in front of the chip truck and then it's time for some celebratory poutine!

French lesson for the day:
Printemps = springtime
Le Pont Rouge = The Red Bridge
Poutine = french fries with curds and gravy

Enjoy more scenery at http://skyley.blogspot.com/



The Ottawa Valley, and especially Pembroke, is renowned for its fiddlers and step dancers. There's a huge annual Old Time Fiddling and Step Dancing Competition held every Labour Day Weekend that attracts musicians and dancers from all over North America to our little city to raise a little hell and have fun while they're at it. People gather at Fiddle Park, and well over 2000 RV's are filled with lovers of  a waltz, a jig and a reel. Anything fiddle goes. But what you won't be able to find is a fiddle head. Because that 's a spring thing, and it's here right now.

If ever you want to know what spring tastes like, this is it. It's fresh, it's green with a slightly bitter after taste, and it goes exceptionally well with butter.
While there are hundreds of different kinds of ferns that grow throughout the woods of eastern Ontario, there is only one fiddlehead, and at maturity it looks like this...

They grow to about 2 feet high, they like damp, shady areas, and you often see them as transplants -up against a house foundation -don't eat those ones though, the homeowners might get a little testy if you're caught lurking around the back porch. If they're this size, you're too late...
You need to pluck them when they're just up out of the ground, still tightly furled,
just like the head of a fiddle.
Rinse them really well to get rid of the brown papery covering, in fact, I rinse them and then par boil really quickly -no more than 2 minutes. Discard that water, then toss into a pan, cover with a bit of salted water, bring to a boil for about 3 minutes (same time  as you would give asparagus) so that they're still slightly crunchy. Serve hot with butter, salt and pepper to taste - and it's music time for your mouth while your taste buds do the two step! And the very best part?? It's free food -  and it can be yours for the picking.
Bon Appetit!


Risky Business.

Today was so gorgeous that after my rivetting meeting on Risk Management,  
I decided to throw caution to the wind, and take the back roads home. The meeting was in Arnprior, a lovely little town about an hour's drive away and between here and there are many, many beautiful back roads less travelled.
So, off I went!
Almost immediately, it became apparent that I needed to mitigate the risk a tad, and start pulling over when something caught my eye  (instead of slowing down to a crawl with my head out of the window).
I've noticed that weaving all over the road is a fairly common  problem on these  nature appreciation expeditions, and I think it could be easily solved by a little neon bumper sticker that says,
 "Caution: Birder on Board. This vehicle makes sudden stops and swerves. So you may want to take a different route."
What caught my eye in this particular case of weaving down the road was a splash of bright yellow. Closer examination revealed the first wildflowers
I'd seen in several months!
 Trout Lilies were everywhere along the roadway, and right
beside them bobbed Blood Root and Downy Yellow Violets...

These beautiful harbingers of spring were everywhere, and so of course I turned off the ignition, and wobbled up the and down the ditch on either side of the road. "Wobbled?", you say. "Yes," says I, because in my haste to manage my self into the car this morning, I quickly threw in the camera and binoculars for the you never knows, and forgot to slip in a pair of ditch walking shoes.

As I was climbing up to the Blood Root, it dawned on me that I was rather nattily shod for smelling the ditch. The farmer who may have to pick me up after I roll down it might like the shiny patent 4" heels, but it's far more likely
that he'll consider me a complete  idiot!
Ah well. All that worry for naught...as in nothing happened. I made it back home and discovered in my own driveway that the Hepatica
had also blossomed overnight.

And I found some Red Trilliums!

This trip was not without its little challenges, and risks that needed to be managed.  But I think an adrenalin rush every now and again is necessary - it wakes us up and makes us appreciate the world around us!
I took a chance making a u-turn on a bit of a hill (just a little one) so that I could get  a closer look at this exquisitely dressed little fellow, singing his heart out and inviting all others to take a chance on him. I'm glad I did!


Sign here.Please. Thank You.

Today I went searching for a specific photo of a beautiful painted Kashub barn in Wilno, Ontario because I had taken it, and thought it would be appropriate to do a blog on the first  Polish settlement in Canada, given the recent tragic death of Poland's president.
I couldn't find that particular file. Not on this netbook, not on the laptop, and definitely not on the antiquated monster that lurks downstairs! God only knows what part of the universe that file now inhabits and He's not telling.
So, I'm sorry and I do extend my sincere condolances to any Polish readers. I will take another trip to Wilno and take some more pictures and share them soon.
BUT! In my search, I did come across a file called Signage. And so I will share some of its contents with you, gentle reader.
We Canadians have earned our reputation for being polite and rather retiring. Perhaps it's the United Empire Loyalist legacy, or the cultural mosaic model of the 60's Trudeau era.(Place for everyone, everyone in his place). Whatever the reason, we really do say "Sorry!" when someone bumps into us, causing us to trip and fall. We apologize when we disagree, as in, " I'm sorry, Mr. Bell Telephone, but I really don't think my bill should be $3 trillion dollars, because I've been very ill, and my phone has been turned off this past month. Would it be possible, pretty please, for you, or someone to check on that and let me know sometime? Of course, I'll pay the bill, but if you would just, well, look into it, that would be really nice!"

"What's that? It's not Bell's fault? Oh. Oh. Well then. Ok, sorry to bother you! And, uh, please, yes, do put me on the I Accept Telemarketing Calls list! "
As a nation, we could use a course in assertiveness training.
Which is why, when these signs were noticed on a recent trip south, I truly found them shocking!! I've travelled many times to the States, and I'm a huge fan, but this was the first time I became aware of some of the signs, and
the guts, the gall, the oh gawd of these signs...

The American constitution guarantees the right to bear arms. The Canadian constitution guarantees the right to peace and good government. 
That's a significant difference in upbringing methinks.
When I first saw this sign, I thought it was a college student, jokey sign...for about 30 seconds, and then I realized it wasn't a joke at all!
Holy Gunsmoke, Roy! Take your finger offa Trigger! 
Not long after this shot (sic) was taken, we were in a grocery store and the man in the cashier's line ahead of me had a gun -in a holster, on a belt.
That was an absolute first for me, outside of the movies.
I was stunned, and started giggling, because it felt  so scary. That "Oh My God, I don't know what to do, I'm so out of my league, I can't  do anything but laugh", laugh. Perhaps some of you are used to scenes like this.
I definitely am not.
The next sign isn't as frightening...quite...

It's politely asking the reader to keep his or her clothes on, refrain from having sex in public, and for goodness sake, don't swear. Alrighty then. I don't plan to do any of those things today, in front of this sign...but I do have to wonder just what rabbit hole have I fallen down??

Oh. Sorry.
 Are there like, a lot of people who like, swear  a lot?
Naked, under this sign? In front of the hotel? 

You know, I swear quite a lot. I know, I know, potty mouths are not that nice, and women of a certain age definitely shouldn't let loose with the 'F' bomb!
Sorry! Sorry!
But I do, on occaision, swear when I'm pissed off about something! 

This sign, more than the no gun sign, scared me into
re-thinking the day's plans...

Ticks have not yet made their way north to our region of eastern Ontario in any significant numbers. But I do know that Lyme's Disease is terrible..and I don't want to turn a leisurely stroll through the woods into a catastrophic event...like getting shot by a crazy guy with a gun
who didn't read the first sign!
Oh. Sorry.
Getting a little carried away here! As a matter of fact, if I had a horse, I would get carried away from the tick zone, and I'd park myself here...

This is what I love, love, LOVE about travelling in general and the States in particular! It's the complete about-turn, give your head a shake, parallel universe that exists! Just when I thought it was too dangerous to go outside, or for a simple little walk, I find that I can not only do both, but I can have a tin bucket to give ol' Stewball a few oats and a drinka water!
Just like back home. Shucks.
Lose the car altogether and just hit the road.

Okie dokie then.
Happy trails to you.
And you, and you and you and you!


Roy G. Biv

The first rainbow of 2010 appeared on Sunday, just as a cold front lifted,
and warm, moist southern air rushed in to fill the void.
At this time of year, I never know what to wear, as the cool morning temperatures quickly rise and by noon we're pealing off the outer layers and baring our arms -only to cover everything up again by dinner time.
I think I'll go grab that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,
and buy some more clothes!
Providing the little leprachauns haven't beat me to it, of course.

See more sky pictures at http://skyley.blogspot.com/


Knock on Wood

The loud drumming echoed throughout the woods that lead immediately from our door. No mistaking what it was...and within minutes, there he (she?) was. The guide book says the male has a more extended crest (surprise), but unless they're side by each, it's hard to tell. At least, I can't tell. But! There's Woody!
Right at the bend in the driveway.
Not caring one wood chip that I was standing at the bottom of the tree.

The effort was intense and practically non-stop. Apparently, the drumming is to establish territory, but since this Pileated Woodpecker has been in our yard all winter, I think - -I hope - - that she/he's actually carving out a home.

How many of North America's largest woodpecker might fit in the hole? An adult is 16-17" long..that's a lot of feathers that will fill the room.
Not to mention the little woodies.
Doesn't appear to be anyone home...yet...


Muskrat Love

It's definitely impossible to write anything about muskrats without humming along to Muskrat Love in the background...one of those little ear worm thingies la da da da, candle light...so I'll just put it out there right now, and after you've finished reading this, you can go to 

That little housekeeping item aside, while I was doing some housekeeping of my own the other day,
I looked out the window, down towards the beach. It's hard to miss, as we live on the beach, and have direct access to it, and all that lovely sand that occasionally I am forced to sweep up if I want to open the door to the patio, or if John has gone missing!

Where was I? Ah, yes, digging myself out of a hole...I looked out to the river's edge, and saw a little brown blip where previously it was just flat, cool, blue water. So, gleefully abandoning my broom, I grabbed the camera, and moved slowly across the top of the sandy slope to take a closer look.

It's definitely a muskrat, and definitely heading towards the shore, with purpose and intent.  Why so definite? Because beavers are much bigger, and as you can see, there are no tasty trees on this beach for a beaver to trim down and feel safe while doing so. Like this...

So, now, back to the sandy shore and Sammy Muskrat...I took that first shot, and blinked, and he was gone - he'd totally disappeared! No tell tail - er, tale - wake, no little brown head bobbing further away,
no nothin'.
So, I ventured a little closer.

Ha! The little bugger has a hidey hole home, right at the water's edge, and obviously, he had leapt ever so quickly  -or slithered, whatever, right down into it! Clever 'skrat.
So I waited, and of course, he did reappear in pretty short order.

He posed for a split second, and then faster than you can say lickety split, turned tail, and headed off up river ...likely looking for some furry piece of fluff to share his dark and murky den.

NOW, you can listen to Cap't and Tennille...

And if you'd like some scenic sky shots, click here: