Botany of the Bruce

Exploring the Bruce

Friday, May 25, 2018

Still 26C at 7:40PM! That is delightful and the reason why we are still sitting on the deck listening to the cardinals and other birds. The mallards, mister and missus take turns sitting under the bird feeder to collect what falls or parading back and forth in the yard. When either looks as if it will slide into the pond, Brian calls to them to tell them to take a hike. He does not want them pooping in his pond.

The other reason we are still sitting and admiring our garden and bay view, besides the beauty and tranquility of it, is that we are tired after a day of exploring the Bruce Peninsula in search of wild flowers. You would think we had spent eight hours walking all over the peninsula but in fact we drove more and sauntered more than we walked but we are tired nevertheless. Brian, Adrian and I were part of a group guided by volunteer, Doug Pedwell, as a nature exploration of the Huron Fringe Birding Festival. 

The orchids are not yet blooming; so, the only ones we saw were the lady slipper and the rare hooker orchid that is just about ready to open its green flowers. As we stopped at various backroad locations we saw meadow rue, Indian paintbrush, saxifrage, Solomon’s seal, columbine, lakeside daisy, hills thistle, ferns: ostrich, bracken, green spleenwort, clintonia, dogtooth violet, wood violets, a few red trilliums and thousands of white trilliums, some of them nodding. Jack in the Pulpit popped up throughout the woods, sometimes in clusters of three to six. The lousewort, prettier than its name implies, was still in bud stage.

I saw some domestic flowers that have made their home in the woods. Never have I seen so many yellow primula in one location. They bordered the trail we walked upon for about five hundred metres. I could have done without the poison ivy and I sincerely hope I did not come in contact with any as I am highly allergic to this dreadful plant.

Brian was our skillful driver. He was also the savior of a painted turtle walking down the middle of the road. As well as flowers we spotted sandhill cranes, warblers, terns, and a scarlet tananger. The clumps of bear scat were interesting and fresh, but we did not see a black bear.

Adrian treated us to ice cream at Sauble Beach, a perfect ending to the day. I would like to have tested the water at Sauble but Brian did not think we had time for that. Kate and I will take our bathing suits with us on Monday for the finale of that hike.

I look forward to next week’s rambles organized by the festival volunteers. For now I will relax on the deck until rain or darkness drives me inside.



Victoria Day

Monday May 21, 2018

It was a fine day to celebrate the Queen’s birthday, even if we were not in the right country and we worked all day and we did not have fireworks. Sunshine and 24C is always good in my books. It was a good day to be outside and that is where we were.

While the family went to school or work, Brian and I worked on the deck. It took us a mere four hours to figure out then install a thirty-three inch stair railing. It only took a little over an hour to install the second one. We can now be hired as consultants for installing Trex railings. Just don’t ask us to install any! We are done. Actually we are not. We will install the longer two stair railings when we return in July. Shawn needs to return some railing sections and order some that will fit. As it is, we were surprised to learn that when you take a section of railing out of a box that describes it as six feet, you only have a railing that measures 67.5 inches. This is new math for me!

 After cleaning up, we each did some grass cutting. This hilly lot is good for an aerobic workout. We put the deck furniture back on the deck and it looks good.

Brian went to pick up Alex from track practice and I waited for Julie to arrive home by bus. I opened the windows wide to breathe in the spring air. The cats were quick to each find a window sill.

Julie practiced her piano pieces and I enjoyed the recital. Julie is making good progress.

Alex, Julie and I played three rounds of Blokus and took turns winning with a three way tie on the last game. Brian and Agnes managed to find time to play Carcassonne this evening. This is the only game Brian played on this trip, but he will go home happy because he won. He will even come back to play another day.

Brian barbecued salmon on the new deck. We devoured it along with rainbow chard and quinoa.

Not Done Yet

But Getting There

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Another busy building day! The good news is that the rain held off. It became very humid in the afternoon. But in spite of a busy schedule for kid events, progress was made on the deck. Only the stair railings remain to be done. Sadly not all of the right materials were delivered; so, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to complete both sets of stair railings tomorrow. The deck is looking good although it needs to have our dirty footprints sprayed off. I delivered boards to the deck builders then helped Brian when Shawn had other duties.

Julie was “flying up”from Brownies to Junior Girl Scouts followed by bowling. Agnes took Julie to that. Alex and Shawn went to a Scout meeting regarding a July Scout trip to the Florida Keys. Alex also had his cello lesson. Shawn is leaving first thing in the morning for San Francisco; so, he had to get ready for that. Agnes found time for grocery shopping and making meat loaf, one of Julie’s favourites.

Alex and I found time to play Ticket to Ride. Alex won. Alex and I also fit in a walk around the neighbourhood. I always enjoying walking and talking with Alex.

Rainy Saturday

Rainy Day

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saturday morning is always a pancake breakfast in this house but I used the last egg in the muffins. Although Agnes was ready to go buy eggs, I looked up an eggless pancake recipe online and that is what we made. I really could not tell the difference.

I am sure that Meghan and Harry were delighted to have blue skies for their wedding, but on this side of the Atlantic it was a very rainy day with only a few minutes of no rain. This did not stop our deck builders. Brian and Shawn worked in the garage to build a step for the deck. They went in search of more materials and they did work in the rain to install several boards.

The rain never stops Shawn from going for a run. He fit that in too.

Alex worked on some language arts homework while Julie and I had reading time. I am reading and very much enjoying Coventry by Helen Humphreys, one of the books that Gary Draper recommended in our Bluewater Association for Lifelong Learning lectures. Agnes went grocery shopping so that none of us would starve.

This afternoon Alex, Julie and I played several games of Blokus and had Agnes join us for one of them. Since our builders were not wet enough they decided they would take time out for fishing. The best time, according to Shawn is when the tide is going out. Alex, Julie and I went too. Julie and I took an umbrella and went for a walk, admiring houses, flowers and the shore. Julie was back in time to cast a few but no one had any bites. Shawn drove us to another spot where he cast a few and caught a twenty-two inch striper. Unfortunately the rule is that you can only keep them when they are at least twenty-eight inches. No fish for us!

Agnes was home cooking Coq au Vin; so, we not only did not go hungry but had a great meal.

Deck Destruction

Destruction of a Deck

Friday, May 18, 2018

Today was all about taking apart a rotten deck over the last several years, Brian has replaced boards on the deck at Shawn and Agnes’ in an effort to prolong the deck’s life. The original deck was never installed properly by the previous owners. No space was allotted between boards for drainage; so, the deck rotted. This is the year for the deck to be replaced. Today Brian and I started at 9AM to remove the old boards. Brian did the dismantling and I hauled  boards and stacked them beside the driveway to put in the dumpster that had not arrived.  I calculated that I walked a few kilometers hauling boards. By 2:30PM the deck was fully dismantled. Brian went to the lumber store for some missing materials and while he was gone, the dumpster arrived. By the time he was back I had loaded most of the rotten material into the dumpster. Alex arrived home from school and helped me finish, then he turned his attention to helping Grandpa build the new deck.

When Julie arrived home, she and I did some pruning and planting then Julie and I made oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and bran muffins with chocolate chips and fruit.

Agnes and Shawn arrived home at 5 PM, earlier than usual. Shawn helped with the deck while Agnes made supper: ribs, green beans, roasted potatoes and spinach salad. We always eat well.

As the kids prepare for bed, Brian and Shawn are back outside in the dark working on the deck. It is supposed to rain tomorrow; so, they are trying to make the most of this fine day.

A Slow Drive to Guilford

On the Road to Guilford

Thursday, May 17, 2018

When we turned out the lights last night, it sure was dark! When you are in the forest on a moonless night, there is only blackness. And it was quiet: no spring peepers, no owls, no coyotes. 

Our breakfast was awesome. Wanda prepared blini with fresh fruit and blueberry and strawberry jam with scrambled eggs on the side. Delicious! A healthier repast than what we had at the Country Diner. Supper was good, not gourmet, but the amount of gravy on our ground chuck steak with mushrooms and onions was heart-stopping. Brian also had gravy on his fries; I declined. The vegetables offered were peas, cole-slaw, cheese or applesauce. I do not know when the last two became vegetables but we both chose cole-slaw. We were so full we had no room for the enormous ice cream cones being served at the dairy bar next door.

Back at the log cabin, we walked the hilly dirt road, hoping to burn a calorie or two and aid digestion.

We decided to not drive back to Lucifer Falls; we will save a repeat walk there for another day. The first few hours of driving through forested hills was uneventful but refreshingly green in many shades. Sadly after we crossed the Hudson River, we had many, many miles of stop and go traffic on Highway 84.  Very short sections of construction were responsible. Our six hour trip took us nearly eight hours.

We listened to the end of the West Cork series of podcasts about an unresolved murder case in Ireland from twenty years ago.

We were happy to arrive in time for pizza. From the dining room Brian spotted an indigo bunting at the feeder. Shawn did not think he had ever seen one here. The azaleas are dazzling! Agnes is happy to see them getting bigger every year. The hellebores are also very content in this environment as they spread throughout the garden.

This evening we were fortunate to take in Alex’s cello performance in his school’s orchestra concert. Although we concentrated on our grandson’s performance we were very impressed with all of the talent in the grade seven and eight orchestras. Alex also performed with the select orchestra. 

Driving to Connecticut

On the Road Again

Danby Forest, New York

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

We are on our way to Shawn’s for five days, but we decided to spend a night near Ithaca, New York en route. We have done all of the waterfalls hikes in this area but we love it here; so, we are redoing some of them. We did the gorge hike to Taughannock Falls this afternoon and plan on hiking in Robert Treman Park to Lucifer Falls tomorrow. What a delight to drive through spring greens today with changing landscapes of blossoming trees and shrubs: cherry, peach, lilacs, redbud, magnolia and white flowering trees I could not name.

We booked a night in the Russian Room at the Log Country B and B on the edge of the Danby Forest. There was a fire here in the main house at Christmas; so, we were not even sure we had a room even after we booked it, but we received some reassuring emails from Wanda and here we are. After driving down the dirt road, past a burned out foundation and up to the old log cabin, we raised our eyebrows and said, “This will be an experience!”

We were only just out of the car when Wanda opened the door to greet us with her Polish accent. We stepped into a collector’s world. A veritable house of treasures. This place is full of wooden sculptures of roosters, angels, Russian dolls, monkeys, zebras, elephants, songbirds, farm animals, bentwood rocking chairs, paintings and china plates of every description, our bed frame made out of tree branches. We have the house to ourselves, I think. There was mention of an Ithaca College professor occupying the other half of the cabin. We have not seen him yet. Wanda’s daughter, Sarah, has an apartment under that half. Wanda is occupying the house on the other side of the burned out house. There are plans to rebuild.

There is an enormous ancient looking bible-like book that turns out to be a guest book that has commentaries dating back to 1987.

We have to drive a few miles to Spencer for supper. We have a choice of two restaurants, one is pizza. I think we are ready for a change: Reese’s Diner is number 1 of 2.

Arrivederci Italia!

Arrivederci Roma

May 6, 2018

La Cantinola was a good choice for dining, not fancy but good friendly service with good Sardinian food. Brian had ravioli and I had lasagna. We shared a large salad and tiramisu, the first time we had a little room for dessert. I was presented with a long stemmed red rose at the end. We gave it to a day with an umbrella shortly after leaving the restaurant. She was delighted. 

We walked to the Trinita da Monti Church at the top of the Spanish Steps. The church was not open but the crowds were thick among the many pots of flowers adorning the 135 steps. Brian said, “Even if St. Peter and St. Paul were playing chess at the bottom, he was not going down the steps.” So I left him at the top and cautiously descended on the wet marble steps. I counted 167 steps including the paces between each set. There was a boat shaped fountain at the bottom. The saints were not there, just vendors of red roses, slingshot LED helicopters, and selfie sticks and tourists. It appeared to be “a thing” to toss your rose into the fountain. I ascended faster than I descended and found my patient husband waiting.

We added seven kilometres of evening walking to our day and happily returned to our room. This morning Cara had our breakfast ready for us at 8 AM as requested. There were fruit tarts, a variety of cold cuts, cream cheese, croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice and cappuccino. All perfect. Cara is Roberto’s sister; she teaches English at a science high school near the Vatican where she lives. She and her brother each have a twenty year old daughter at university. They inherited this flat from their grandmother and converted it to three B and B suites in 2015. It took five months to complete the necessary two hundred pages of paperwork. Our room had antique furnishings from the original flat. The other two rooms were decorated in modern style. There rooms are usually booked every week day by business people as this is the financial and ministry district.

We learned just before breakfast that our plane would be delayed an hour but since we were already to go, we left for the train station as planned. At the station people were lined up to purchase tickets from a human but we went to a ticket machine and got ours without waiting. It took less than thirty minutes for the trip to Fiumicino Airport. We zoomed through check-in, security, and customs. Now, after a cappuccino and sandwich it is a waiting game. Time for a novel on the iPhone. At least it’s quiet here, not bombarded with announcements, sun shining on us through the skylights. I just need a lounger and I could nap.

Ciao, Italia!

The winds in Toronto on Friday delayed flights by five hours. Somehow those winds or new winds affected our flight so that we were nearly two hours late leaving Rome. It was nearly a ten hour flight. A long one. I watched movies. I finished watching Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I had started it on the way to Rome. Then I watched The Darkest Hour about Winston Churchill and the war, then Wonder about a fifth grader with facial disfigurements. All three dramas are well worth watching and brought on laughter as well as tears.

The plane was not full so as well as legroom, we were able to spread out and have more shoulder room. Brian dozed for part of the flight. I am never very good at that.

7:54PM Toronto… the car with Brilynn! Yeah! We will pretend it is not 1:54 AM Monday Rome time.

Pescara to Roma

200 kilometres by train across Italy

Saturday, May 5, 2018

After an excellent breakfast including a plate of sliced fruit with a banana decorated as a dolphin, the symbol of Pescara, we hoisted our packs onto our backs and walked down the stairs and to the nearby train station. The station was not at all busy. We easily found our train on Platform 7, walked around on the platform until closer to boarding time at 9:23 AM. Several cars on this train but they were mostly empty.  We were in second class although it does not look much different from first. Train travel is cheap, 14 euros for a three hour twenty minute trip to Rome.

Brian cleaned our window on the outside with a tissue so that we could see better. I took a few photos of our mountain scenery as we flew along. Many trees with white blossoms, snow on the higher mountains, tunnels to glide through, rails and road follow river valleys,  villages cling onto mountain sides or hill tops, fields, gardens and orchards on flat lands, forested hillsides, stony outcrops, castle ruins, church steeples, white clouds making beautiful patterns against bright blue sky. It poured for about a half an hour near the beginning of our trip.

Our train was only a few minutes late then we walked the kilometre to our B and B, Alla Locanda Malandra in the Sallustiano neighbourhood where Roberto was waiting to show us to our elegant eighteenth century style room with a large beautiful recessed oval light in the ceiling. His sister will be around to prepare breakfast for us in the morning. They have three rooms on the first floor of this interesting building across the street from the Porta Pia in the city wall of Rome.

Then we wandered for seven kilometres. We went looking for the Margherita Palace as it did not look too far from here. That was for you, Margaret! I did not get great photos of it since there is a very large wall with iron work above it and enormous magnolias that hide the beautiful statues and building. The palace is enormous and is now the American Embassy. The guard at the gate looked bored.

There are many beautiful buildings in the area as there are throughout Rome. I added to my collection of photos of door knockers. 

We walked along many pathways in the Borghese Gardens. I love the tall pines. I was hoping to also see some interesting flower gardens but the gardens where an aviary once was, looked weedy, sad and locked up. Maybe it will garner some attention for the summer season. As soon as the rain began, the people began to disperse. People were strolling, using inline skates or segways, driving four person golf carts or riding in a sightseeing train.  We took our time walking back to our room for a rest.

We plan on dining just around the corner at La Cantinola, recommended by Roberto as good food, not expensive. Our last dinner in Italy will probably be pasta.

Pescara, Abruzzo

Pescara, Abruzzo

Friday, May 4, 2018

By the sea, by the beautiful sea. After an egg, cheese, prosciutto and croissant breakfast we were driving again for the last time. As we drove north we were never far from the Adriatic. Sea green, turquoise, aqua, azure, Mediterranean blue: take your pick! We saw them all today. So peaceful, so calming even with big waves. The sky had its own wonderful blue with large cumulonimbus clouds to the north and wispy white streaking overhead. 

Most of the coastline north from Termoli is sand beach with many resorts, holiday homes, campgrounds and mobile home parks along the shore, but only one set of buildings deep, not blocks and blocks of constructions. Most buildings are not more than four or five storeys. On the other side of the road, olive trees again gave way to vineyards terraced up hillsides.  

We drove straight to the train station where we handed over the keys to our Citroen and Brian especially breathed a sigh of relief. Surviving 1080 kilometres of driving in Italy with drivers who do not obey traffic rules or speed limits is nothing short of a miracle. From the train to our lodging was an easy five hundred metre walk.

Not many places to pull off the road for photos on our drive but we took some while we walked the beach after arriving in Pescara. Pescara is the capital of the Abruzzo region, with a population of about 150 000 but 500 000 when the surrounding metropolitan area is included. I don’t think there are any buildings more than eight storeys. The room we are in is on the seventh (top) floor on main Corso Umberto 1 street. There are twenty-eight steps per floor. So far we have taken the elevator! We have a view to the sea from the balcony and as normal at three in the afternoon this pedestrian street is pretty much deserted.

A Cuban family runs this three room B and B called uPPer. Daughter and mother-in-law greeted us and showed us the kitchen, lounge and balcony available to us as well as our comfortable spacious room with ensuite and balcony. Every room in the past week has been tastefully decorated in grey and white usually with black and white photos or paintings. This is the first room with colourful paintings. It also has a large screen tv with Netflix. Brian and I have watched a few shows on his iPhone. A big screen might overwhelm us!

We had lunch at Bavaria American Food Bar. We split a chicken club sandwich with fries. Brian ate most of it. That was a huge sandwich. Brian had a beer and I enjoyed an “energy” slushy.

Rest time after only five and a half kilometres of walking. We must be slowing down.

We went back out for more walking and found the Museo Villa Urania which featured ceramics from the fifteenth through the nineteenth century. There was also a special exposition of nineteenth century paintings.

Another walk to the beach and restaurants began their 7:30 PM opening. We dined at Locanda da Pia and we are full! I had a huge bowl of minestrone soup with pasta. It was twice the size of Brian’s first course of spaghetti with tomato and meat sauce. Even Brian could not finish my soup for me. He then had steak with salad and I had grilled veal with salad. All very good with friendly service.

Before supper we walked down our seven flights of stairs and after dinner we walked back up. We probably should still be going up and down.

During the Second World War 78% of the city was destroyed by bombers. That explains why there are relatively few old buildings and many apartment buildings that look as if they were built during the fifties and sixties. it is so young that it is known as the “city without wrinkles”.

Based on the prices we have seen in shop windows it is now a shopping city for the wealthy.