Friday, June 30, 2006

Simple, yet such beautiful pleasures

Flowers growing in our garden beds have literally surrounded our home since the spring tulips and early blooms burst from their buds. Though those have now faded and their color disappeared, a continuation and abundance of beauty unveils for us to behold and take pleasure in. Truly, a whole lot of simple beauty!


Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Child's Paradise...

A child's paradise!

I've toured you all around general areas of our acreage several times, mostly through pictures taken out of doors. Now, let me be your personal escort through our children's "secret garden", their little paradise.

Bordering the rear of our property, a large portion of the farm crops are currently planted with soybeans. A short walk from our property boundaries sits a gentle flowing and shallow little creek with small fish swimming about it's running waters, one I haven't personally strolled out to explore just yet, though hubby has. It was always so muddy beyond our section of land when the idea crossed my mind, so soon, now with the field crop growth beginning to keep the grounds drier, I'll wander over to the brambling brook someday, having already been given permission from the farmer to enter the fields to do so. The children think it's just grand, yet to me, their little jaunts usually are accompanied with wet oozing mud dropping off their boots and over pants, hands and even cherub cheeks! Some fun for an adult, but for a kid, it’s normal fun stuff not thought of as part of a negative to the event.

Guess who was in the farmer's field?

Here are a few pictures to leave you with an impression of life here for the children. When I mentioned they run crazy and wild all over the place here, and sleep comes with the head dropping immediately to the pillow accompanying great snoring concerts, I wasn't kidding you know. *smile*

After waking in the wee hours of the morning to take the pups out for their daily morning walk duties, I'll often find one, or all of the children way out back. No wonder! It's a fabulous dreamy sort of never-never kid land, where huge creativity and imagination are initiated by uncluttered cityite lifestyles and boisterous annoying noises! It’s a place where real play embarks into lifelong memories. I wonder how they choose what to do first though, just where oh where… to begin.

Our first stop is the long awaited dream of building a tree fort for the older son here. The first thing he accesssed when entering this property for a possible purchase last December, was a tree, any kind of tree, to see his ever eager determination and vision of building and owning his very own tree fort, (like Nicholas and he constructed on his property), could come true for himself here. That specific ideal request was very important to him. On this land, hubby suggested the near dead one (smile) to erect a home away from home in. Oldest son was given a copy of “How to build tree houses, huts and forts by; David Stiles. for his birthday and has it memorized.

Not a bad staircase

While construction was beginning on our barn, small leftover plywood pieces and bent nails were set aside by the subtrades to use some other time, or take away as a garbage lot once the building was finished. Little by little, I’d look out the window noticing, yet again, one child poking through the pile and sneakily bolting up the back to add it to their fort bootie pile (like pirates!) and they gladly accepted all bent nails, banging away to straighten them all up again. A bagful now rests out in the tree fort supply stocks. If you ask me the book must be providing fairly good how-tos, because these stairs look okay!

In these tall grasses, any imaginative play comes alive!

- I’ve seen hunting with swords or Lego guns. I've followed little headdress feathers bob up and down, with the walking gait of the native Indians, as they strolled along to their teepees deep in the forest.

- Scavenger hunts always award the seeker with new goodies to collect. (Two large toads came to the porch into bug bottles two weeks ago, added next to the antfarm filled with small ants...oh goodie!)

- Sitting amongst the tall grass, is a great hiding spot, especially when mom is looking for a child whose chores are incomplete.

- Nature gardens have been constructed for little critters to visit during the midnight darkness nocturnal romps

You tell me. Is this not the perfect hideout for a young lad?

I found the perfect bell to hang outside and ring when seeking out the children for meals. My whistle as pitch perfect as it can get, isn't always heard, but this bell is!

Winding paths through the long grass
allow for imaginations to run wild

Caution; History of the ages at play!

Take two old swings from years gone by, one older teen who wants so badly to assist his younger siblings to have a swing set, and one very large Elm tree with an alcove surrounded with high grass to swing legs up into, back and forth with a tickle behind their knees, just above the grounds around the swing ground area, and here you have a lovely setting, in the shade of an old tree, one child or two usually swinging gently below, another (or two) hanging around above reading a book, finding a bug, looking for a bird’s nest, and you have a wonderful haven to mosey on to any time of day.

The secret garden,
with one red
one blue swing hanging
under this Elm tree

One can only imagine the sights the child senses, and might recall someday in their senior age. I myself watched the horse farmer load her barn loft today with hay bales, horses prancing here and there while she was busy working away...not an easy job either.

Watching the happenings on the horse farm next door

As well, to the other side of us, the eighty pear trees, with six varieties. These will harvest one day soon, but meanwhile the children have been given permission to climb however many they wish. The owner merely asked them to refrain from entering the orchard when the pears are larger, so there isn't an accident for him to worry about with pears dropping on their heads and injuring them.

The pear orchard. Eighty trees, six varieties

.....Through the eyes of a child, time stands still. Ah, to be a child again!

Always out exploring.
Looking for the bunch of wild bunnies' hideout
found on our property in the mornings

Please take some tea with me....

Mary, Mary quite contrary,
how does your garden grow?

Please come for tea? We can relax sipping our herbal bliss tea, lounge on the back deck while basking in the sunshine, listen to the sweet sounds of the plethora of baby birdies all around, and tend to our mother culture of taking care of our own spirits. Does this sound like you? Then come!

You see, we have a little garden, and unbeknown to us when purchasing this house, the back pasture area we have now discovered, bursts with an abundance of gifts to satisfy any fresh fruit craving. We've been enjoying a marvelous strawberry patch, raspberry plants are almost to fruition, one blueberry plant looks quit healthy (yielding not much at this moment), then over the past few weeks, an abundance of white flowers has appeared, chamomile flowers to be exact.

I know, I know, how lovely they are right? Oh yes!

Simply gorgeous! Exquisitely appealing to the senses, I love to glance out the window to take a peak each day at them, then after a brief stroll outside, I also love to view them up close as well.

Field of dreams

However, I was thinking about what in the world I will do with so many. Tea, yes, come for tea! I understand this type of plant is likened to an herb plant, growing out of control if not kept a decent width, cut and tended to. I'm thinking I'll bring some indoors and place them into a few lovely vases here. I'll be meticulous with good timing to cut a bunch for drying and adding to the tea stash, but then what?

What would you do with all these lovely fleurs??? Do tell!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

My Lonestar - North Star!

I adopted this tree! I call it "Lonestar" as you know because I blogged about it before.

There is a simple beauty about this tree, even though I've come to realize it's likely in a dead state, not having any new foliage or growth this spring yet. The field surrounding it also hasn't seen any crop growth yet, though I know it's recently been planted by the farmer.

When I'm traveling about and heading home, it stands tall and stately, almost ready to wave it's long limbs at me to say hello. It guides me to my street, my unpaved dirt road actually.

I can see this tree from my living room, and it constantly reminds me of its similarity to the North Star. It never changes, never moves and is always there to catch a glimpse of, in the day or night, but the most beautiful time is at sunset! Oh-la-la!!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

LaSalle's Griffon ship and the Greak Lakes conservation program

Rene-Robert Sieur de La Salle

better known to us in this generation
simply as "LaSalle", the explorer.

Okay, this may seem as an odd post, however let me explain throughout the details below. Read on;

Legendary French explorer Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieur de LaSalle's flagship, the Griffon the first European vessel to sail the upper Great Lakes is a hot controversial topic in the east! The Griffon was intended to carry out lucrative fur-trading commerce which would support La Salle’s expedition in search of the mouth of the Mississippi. Because it sank and now rests within Michigan's nautical territory they claim it under the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1986.

Ever since the loss of LaSalle's Griffon in 1679, the Great Lakes have continued to claim ships. There are literally thousands of shipwrecks littering the floor of the five Great Lakes and tributary waters. What often distinguishes these wrecks from others is their excellent state of preservation. Because the Great Lakes are so cold and because of the relative scarcity of marine life, many wrecks remain intact and undiscovered for hundreds of years. Many divers can attest to the presence of intact bodies in 50 to 100 year old wrecks. Others have seen three masted wooden schooners lying on the bottom in such good shape that they could easily be refloated. Still others have found readable books and logs, and tables still set for a meal that was to be served 100 years ago.

I found a very informative reference book on ship wrecks around the Great Lakes area, specifically Lake Erie, very well researched by a diving couple, one so full and thick on the shipwrecks deep inside Lake Erie alone, they were forced to split it into two volumes, with a third volume hot off the press very soon. These were titled "Erie wrecks, volumes 1 & 2" . I gave both volumes to Adam for a Christmas gift, mostly for the interesting aspect of them, but also to research and possibly visit someday, being a master diver himself. He loved them.

These vessels are time capsules of a kind that can be found nowhere on land. In addition to giving us a look into the society, technology, culture and artifacts of a bygone century, many of these vessels give an eerie picture of the horrific and desperate last moments of a ship and crew who knew they were likely to die. It is a startling realization that a short 150 to 200 feet under nearby waters lay many remarkable archeological resources which are largely undiscovered.

Recently one of our day trips took us to Sarnia, where we visited (many things!) the Discovery House Museum, another lovely Victorian house, turned museum with several interesting displays. There before us, was the long lost ship wreck of LaSalle’s Griffon pieces, now displayed in glass to preserve them. Just a few pieces of wood, a few hand made nails and such, however the whole significance is huge! The diver couple finding a ship wreck years ago, took these as “souvenirs”, but had no idea of the treasures they were hoarding, and held the secret possessions for quite some time, almost twenty years. When a collector discovered what these were, and of course, where they founded them, the items were donated to the museum for preserving the history behind them.

Steve Libert, president of Great Lakes Exploration Group, LLC, has an obsession for exploration. National Geographic may have been credited for the phrase “Exploration is an Obsession”, but it was certainly inspired by someone like Libert. "Human progress depends on exploration and discovery,” he says. “And I think individual explorers still have an important role to play.” He himself has been researching “The Griffon” for over 28 years and is now suing the state of Michigan to have it excavated. He claims;

Excavation of the ship will tell us much about the history of our country and how our ancestors lived. In particular, the wreck is a record of ship construction of that period, about which relatively little is known. La Salle constructed the Griffon on the banks of the Niagara River, about three miles above the falls. It is still not known which side of the river the Griffon was built, the Canadian or the U.S. side, however, that piece of the puzzle may be answered if the wreckage is the Griffon.

The fact that the Griffon was built in the wilderness, as opposed to a shipyard, will reveal the circumstances La Salle and his men faced and the tools and technology they possessed. The ship was built with timber cut on site. The exact dimensions of the vessel are not known. It is however believed to have been 45 tun*, 30 to 40 feet in length with a 10 to 15 foot beam and a single mast with several square sails.

La Salle intended to use the Griffon as a commercial vessel. With the support of King Louis XIV, he financed his search for the mouth of the Mississippi with the proceeds from the lucrative fur trade. Some however regard the Griffon as a “vessel of war” because of the five to seven cannons it had mounted.

LaSalle's Griffon - 325 years ago

The Voyage of the Griffon

The Griffon’s maiden voyage started from Niagara on August 7, 1679. La Salle and 34 men sailed across Lake Erie to present day Detroit and then to St Ignace, near the Straits of Mackinac, finally stopping at safe anchorage on the shores of Green Bay. On September 18, 1679, La Salle dispatched a crew of six to sail the Griffon, which was loaded with some 6000 pounds of furs, tools, and trade goods back to Niagara.

The Griffon sailed from what is known today as Washington Harbor on Washington Island. Father Hennepin, a Franciscan Recollect friar who had accompanied La Salle on the expedition, records that the ship fired a single cannon shot as it set sail. Hennepin also writes that those on land did not know what course the ship had taken once it left anchorage. The Griffon was never seen again.

Father Louis Hennepin accompanied La Salle on the expedition to find the northwest passage to China.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Conservation program....

While researching LaSalle's great "Griffon" after seeing the artifacts within the small town museum, I came upon a website of the "Great Lakes Shipwreck conservation program" and again, my interest peaked.

Read the following excerpts, take a second look at the artifacts in the case above in the photos I snapped, then let me know what you think. Personally it would be a momentous occasion to be the finder of a sunken ship, sure to be treasured by all who explored for it. However on the flip side, after reading about the conservation program's purpose, and remembering the artifacts above came deliberately from "diver looters" in a way, I'm all for leaving them well preserved in depths of the water!

And there you have it folks, leave them as is, right where they are!

Because the widespread availability of SCUBA is a relatively recent phenomenon, many historic and legendary vessels have yet to be discovered or disturbed. Most shallow wrecks that are easily accessible have already been damaged by waves and ice. Vessels deeper than 100 feet, however, are likely to be in excellent shape and are less likely to be found without an intensive search. Thus, many divers have taken up wreck hunting and new historical wrecks are being found every year. As sport divers become more comfortable in the 100 to 250 foot depth range, more and more discoveries will be made. The increasing availability of technology such as side scan sonar and the popularity of tech diving also insure that more wrecks will give up the secret of their locations.

The discovery of new wrecks is perhaps a positive and unavoidable eventuality. However, what happens to these wrecks is not. Experienced divers always relate stories of what a fantastic dive a wreck was "before she was stripped." In fact, just about every wreck that has been found in the Great Lakes has a collateral story of some artifacts that were stolen from it. Too often, naive divers are lured with stories of "treasure" to plunder wrecks. The hard truth is that most Great Lakes wrecks contain nothing even remotely resembling gold or silver. Divers find only "semi-precious" artifacts of an historical nature which they remove from the vessel and stick in the corner of their garage where no one else can view them. Wooden artifacts soon begin to rot no matter how much care is taken with them, as was the case with the 150 year old schooner Alvin Clark that was raised from Green Bay in 1969. She was destroyed after her metal parts cracked and she rotted into the ground. History has clearly shown the futility of removing artifacts from Great Lakes shipwrecks. Further, because the removal of artifacts from Great Lakes shipwrecks is illegal, most of these items are never seen again and rarely find their way to museums for proper conservation.

As the diving community in the Great Lakes has grown, many people have become staunch advocates of wreck conservation. The State of Michigan took a leading role when it established the Underwater Preserve system. These preserves ensure that wreck stripping and plundering will be kept to a minimum and that violaters will receive harsh penalties. Organizations such as Preserve Our Wrecks, Save Our Shipwrecks and others take an active role in conservation by regularly inspecting local wrecks to insure proper conservation. Other divers ensure conservation simply by letting their diving friends know that they will not dive with looters and even by reporting people who display artifacts to them.

There is also questionable validity in bringing artifacts to the surface for display in museums. Many nameboards have been taken off the sterns of wrecks and are now on the walls of museums and displays. Chadburns, binnacles, capstans, wheels, propellers and rudders have all been removed and placed in foreign environments where they look awkward and tell us little about their vessels. On land, these items often appear to be rusty and rotted pieces of junk. Aboard the ship however, these items have a great significance. They convey a greater sense of the vessel's historical nature and give clues as to its final moments and ultimate demise. Artifacts are also likely to last longer in the cold waters of the Great Lakes than anywhere else. There are already enough shipwreck artifacts in museums and displays to sate the appetite of the non-diving public. The artifacts of new shipwreck discoveries should be left in state for those interested enough to don a wetsuit.

Recently, the Alger Underwater Preserve sank an old harbor tug within its waters as a dive attraction. This tug which wouldn't have garnered a snapshot from even the most ardent marine historian now brings thousands of divers to Munising each year, generating hundreds of thousands of tourism dollars. However, on dry land one of the oldest and most historic wrecks on the Great Lakes, the Alvin Clark, couldn't even generate enough interest to keep her from the bulldozer. Clearly, these facts speak for themselves.

For these reasons divers in the Great Lakes region need to take action to further establish and maintain bottomland preserves and conservation organizations in all five Great Lakes and surrounding states and provinces. Perhaps by these means, there will still be some historical wrecks left worth diving in 50 years.

The dance recital

Another daughter, another dance recital to attend. This daughter however was new to the wonderful world of ballet and tap dancing, having only been trained for a couple of months since moving to the east.

She performed well, her smile radiated to the audience, her joy of the dance shined through, and no stage fright was present. She absolutely adored wearing a tutu (we rented the costume), then taking it off to trade it for the tap skirt with fringe for the next number. The theatrical makeup was strange to see on a young gal so small, but necessary for the stage presence desired from the studio teachers.

The organization of the studio owners was commendable, the location terrific. Naturally there's always one young gal who forgets her number, so the one in the center was having a tough night here.

This performance was eagerly awaited, and now, they have been invited to participate in a Canada Day parade locally. Another adventure to be sure, she will be there. In fact, I predict our young gal will continue with her ballet, and possibly the tap dancing for a while yet.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Eldon House

The Eldon House

The adventures have continued as I mentioned in another post, many of them in fact happened, as my mother, the children and I roamed about, traveling and visiting little towns, greeting history in our midst, as a cherished old friend, specially when we stumbled on items of interest along the way. Tidbits of information gathered from local folks, or seen in the brochures we picked up, gently guided us to many places of interest, enabling us to capture “living history”.

Imagine, someone once breathed, lived here and walked this same walk as we did, yet over one hundred years ago in the same place! And who was more interested in all of this unfolding within our group? We were all so interested; it was difficult to walk away when our time ended. Knowing though there would be more days ahead to “promenade” through other historical sights, whenever the announcement was made in morning hours to pack up for another long day trip, eager beavers were usually ready imminently with their water bottle in hand, pocket money all ready, extra clothing gathered for possible weather changes, things to do in the vehicle, and hats were on their heads.

My mother and I are connoisseurs of historical homes and love to be participants of informational tours when possible. In the east, it’s very easy to get our fix, with the plethora of homes welcoming us to visit.

After some local shopping and lunch, we stopped at the tourist center in London, and it was there my smart mama inquired into possible Victorian home tours within the city. Several were there to browse, though lost in time, and so intrigued, our time only allowed for one while touring that city.

Let me begin the next series of updated posts, by sharing our tour of “The Eldon House” with you.

Handmade grandfather clock brought with the Eldon
family from England in 1825

Grandson's wife from Holland had incredible wealth, and imported with her arrival, these original delft blue tiles from her homeland, as well as many other delft pieces around the home.

Part of the original library.
Need I mention to you how I liked this room?

Sitting by the fire, ladies visiting used the tapestry
shield to the left of the fireplace,
for protecting their faces from the heat,
and having their wax makeup melting. Funny!

Eldon House is the oldest house in London. Virtually unchanged since the last century, this historic home contains family heirlooms, furnishings and priceless treasures of the Harris family as well as a re-created 19th century garden.

Built in 1834 for Captain John and Amelia Harris, the house remained in the Harris family until 1959 when it was given to the city complete with family furnishings and priceless treasures. Eldon House was the center of social life in early 19th century London with its library the setting for lively evenings. Today it remains a charming reflection of the city's past and tours are booked daily with folks like us roaming about it’s ground and floors.

Extremely pricey, red cedar imported from B.C. for ceilings

The wedding bed of the original couple,
as was with all original belongings.

One of the bedrooms for a daughter. The chair a the end of the bed was for kneeling down to say nightly prayers on.

Taking tea near the fireplace was necessary
to remain warm in the early mornings.

The Nursery, with all original toys left behind.
It reminded us of something out of Peter Pan.

During this age of elegance, wealthy homes were furnished with exquisite antiques and historic treasures from exotic places. Last year I visited the “Eastman House” in Rochester, New York. If I hadn’t been exposed earlier to several collectible items on display, I think I would have become ill. Wealthy men of the time period, were worldwide travelers, and hunters, adventuring to exotic corners of the world, with their great desires to acquire unique items to add to their extensive collections. To mention a few, displays of tribal swords, cultural tribe knives & spears, animal horns and/or body parts such as elephant legs used for holding their umbrellas, gorilla hand ashtrays (think of Jane Goodell and her fight to save the gorillas), rhinoceros foot wine decanters, African collectibles, silk clothing and pictures from Japan, basketry, shields created using animal skins or hides, Samurai horse accessories and so much more . Though some of these things mentioned are gross, gross, gross to us (did I say gross?), likely it was a prestigious and acceptable collection, worthy of display during that time period. Blech!

Elephant leg umbrella stand

Rhinocerus wine decanter

Shields of crocodile, turtle, hides, and horns
and original gold gilted wallpaper from Japan.

With wealthy folks, life was made possible by domestic servants always on call in London's oldest surviving mansion. While touring the kitchen, I giggled when our tour guide allowed the children to ring the bells overhead, mimicing what the servants would hear daily while on duty, possibly with just a glance to know who or what room was beckoning a need, or perhaps the varying sounds the bells made when rung were recognized easily to know where their services were required. These bells reminded me of some I've seen in a few films Karen A. had introduced me to from the BBC productions. Lavish needlework bell pulls were present in every room, in full view, each attached and represented in the kitchen with an accompanying bell.

Bells to summon the maid's services

The kitchen, renovated in the 1930's

The maid's staircase, well worn floorings.
There once was colorful linoleum here,
all worn down now as shown below.

If you know me, you can imagine the pictures I took touring this home. I loved the fact, each and every piece in this home belonged to this family. What a huge heritage value it represents, of beloved treasures and collections, for folks like us to enjoy browsing through. There was a table in the men's cigar area (where the men excused themselves into later after dinner. The women had their own little area), binders filled with photos, addtional information, and one was filled with the biography bits of the servants who worked inside of this home, lived there, then moved on to have their own families over time. I wanted to sit most of the remaining time just to read, but the outside grounds still beckoned us outdoors. You must visit this house if you travel to the area someday!

A few dozen original black and white sketchings,
each representing a Shakepeare play.
Many more were around the home.
Remember this family came from England

If you wish to check out the Eastman House in New York for yourself, it is so much more than just a home. It’s also where “Kodak” began, the history of camera making with their museums, photography in general, and of course, Eastman worked with Thomas Edison to make “moving pictures”, films of many sorts. History was made there, symphonies played in the conservatory, while rich folks came to dine and slip their umbrellas into the elephant leg brass fitting. *wink*


After our visit to the Eldon house, we drove only a few blocks down the road to find these, and toured the museum as well. Many fine history books were in the gift shop as you could only imagine. *wink*

This used to be a Fort along the Thames River,
circa 1824/1825 Gothic Revival,
now fully restored and used as the Middlesex County Courthouse.
It's next door to the London Museum. Very cool looking!

More historical adventures to patient with me okay?