Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Harbour Visits

I've been down to the harbour several times over the past six weeks, and learned exactly which roads I like to drive down and what to watch out for on those roads.  I start by going down the Collingwood Street hill, and usually turn at the bottom of the hill onto Thompson Street, which is nice and smooth.

Thompson Street is the first one, just before the sidewalk on both sides starts.  On the right at that corner the house you can see is Bobi's Daycare, I think the most popular daycare in town.  I often see toddlers outside paying when I go by.

On the left is the Curling Club, and the open fields of the fairground.

Appropriately, the plaques on the gateposts are in honour of the agricultural pioneers of the area.

And right out in front is a good (bad?) example of the 'alligator pavement' that is all too common on Meaford's streets, including coming down the Collingwood Street hill, admittedly not usually this bad!  I try to avoid it just as I avoid sidewalks!

Once this summer, turning around that corner, I heard a helicopter coming.  It circled behind me and turned toward the hospital (helicopters need to land into the wind just like planes).  Helicopters right overhead are about the loudest sound you can hear outside, just worse than wood chippers!

Getting downtown I often stop at The Kitchen for a coffee.  Before the pandemic my coffee group met here, but they are not opening for interior sitting this fall.

One of my very few sins in life, a rare afternoon coffee.  I think this was the only time all summer when I picked up a butter tart to go with it; I'm losing my taste for sweet things!

I'm always amused by this sign on a post beside the first of five patios on this stretch of downtown, directed at the cars driving by.

On this day there was a nice sailboat moored on this side of the harbour, probably waiting for attention at the marina here.

Richardson Boats has been serving boaters in Meaford since 1933, almost 100 years.  They offer a full suite of repairs and winter storage options.

They are currently having to replace their buried gasoline tanks due to federal regulations.  Here they've lifted one out of the ground.

There's a large valve on each one that has to be separated from the tank.  It's unclear how this service will continue because of the cost of new materials required, and the many permits required today.  I believe the marina is operating with a temporary system for the rest of this year.

Once the library was open after lockdown I was delighted to head around the block and in there.

This is a wheelchair-eye view of the stacks, which are low enough for me to see easily.  In fact an older lady I was talking to a few days ago said she found them difficult because she had to bend down so far!

After that it was often down a block of the main street where the old Stedman's store still sits vacant.  Just look at that 100+year-old brickwork!  Then often a stop in the drug store and I'm on my way home.

We have a week of great weather coming up here!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Update at Home

Things are going on as they normally do here at home.  The garden continues to grow, Mrs. F.G. has done a lot of canning and seed collecting, and now has taken up dehydrating various fruits and veggies.  I sit in the garden almost every morning, and go for a ride later on.  My coffee group has morphed into a lunch group once a week, which I'm really enjoying.

Things are so overgrown in parts of the garden at this time of year I can hardly put my coffee down without getting it in the Marigold leaves.  But it's nice when it's warm enough to sit out there every morning.

I sometimes sit on the patio and gaze up into the maple tree, dreaming about having a tree fort up there.

Meanwhile Mrs. F.G. did a burst of canning, not having made any jam this year ( I think our shelves are still full of jam).  Now they're full of relish, anti-paste, salsa, and beet pickles, all things we will enjoy a lot.

It's also the time of year for seed collecting.  Mrs. F.G. grows a lot of seedlings inside in early spring, so collects seed from the best plants that we like, and carefully dries and labels them for next year.

And now she has bought herself a serious dehydrator.  So far she has tried tomatoes, chopped peaches, and blueberries.  Now she's trying rhubarb.  I expect she'll enjoy this hobby for years to come, a good one for the cooler months.

A few weeks ago she clipped off the blooms of several plants, including the beautiful Cleome.  I was skeptical, but she reassured me that they would bounce back with more blooms then ever, and they have - she was right.

The Sweet William, which had only 3 or 4 blossoms before she dead-headed it, is the same.

Meanwhile the green beans (3 different types), which were planted very late, have grown like mad and we've been eating them for a week now.  As you can see the yellow single Marigolds have flourished too.

Here's an interesting flower, a Nicotine plant that has completely green flowers.

And an interesting colour combination with purple Verbena, white Mallow and pink Fall Anemones.  Some flowers just seem to keep blooming forever.

Finally, here's another interesting look at pistils (in the centre) and stamens (around the pistil).  This is our last Clematis to bloom, a very small one with yellow petals.  It grew rampantly in our last garden, crawling over a big shrub and several Peonies, and spreading badly.  We'll be keeping it under control here!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Canada has Already Won Two Medals!

The Paralympics have started and Canada has already won two medals.  Aurelie Rivard, one of the most decorated Canadian para athletes, picked up bronze in the S10 50 metre freestyle swimming and Keely Shaw in her first Paralympics won bronze in the C4 3000 metre individual pursuit in cycling.

Aurelie Rivard is Canada's most decorated female para athlete.  She won 3 golds and a silver in Rio and 14 medals in all at four world championships.  Her bronze medal adds to this total, and she'll be in four more events at Tokyo, two more in freestyle, one in the backstroke and the individual medley.

Keely Shaw, based in Saskatoon, was a serious hockey player when she fell off a horse at age 15 and ended up paralyzed on her left side.  She only rode in her first race in 2017!

There are many more Canadian athletes to compete, 128 in all, including those in five team events.  Many are returning athletes, but there are 55 competing in their first Paralympics.  

The Paralympics started in England after WWII when 16 veterans with spinal cord injuries competed.  Initially restricted to wheelchair athletes, today a wide range of disabilities are represented.  You may notice an alpha-numeric code before event listings like the 'C4' and 'S10' in the first paragraph above.  These refer to categories of disability, from paraplegia to amputations to visual impairment as well as to levels of impairment.  

As I've learned in my own case, disabilities range a lot in severity, so it's a double set of categories to try and ensure that competition is as fair as possible.  For example, a spinal cord injury at a high level is far more limiting than such an injury at a low level.  Athletes are categorized by the International Paralympic Committee, not by the athletes themselves and there's a lot of medical background that goes into the decisions.

I was interested to learn that the prefix 'para' does not refer to paraplegics, but to the fact that the Paralympics are held 'parallel' to the Olympics, in recent years in the same host city and using the same facilities.

Here are five Canadian para athletes to watch for.

Brent Lakatos is one of Canada's world champions.  A paraplegic, he started out playing wheelchair basketball, but switched to racing.  He's won races at the 100m 200, 400, 800 and 4x400 distances; this is his 5th Paralympics. 

Patrick Anderson is one of the greatest wheelchair basketball players in the world.  He was left a double amputee by a drunk driver at the age of 9, discovered wheelchair basketball and has competed in 4 Paralympic games, (3 golds and a silver) taking a break in 2016.  He's back and is a leader of the team.

Stefan Daniel is a para triathlete, and was the recent world champion in 2019.  It requires running, swimming and cycling, so he's pretty much an all-round athlete.  He is also a leader for the U of Calgary's Dinos cross-country team, which is not a 'para' team.

Kate O'Brien is a cyclist, only competing since an accident left her with a serious brain injury in 2017.  Before that she was a bobsledder.  In her debut year, she won gold at the 2020 world championships.  

I have to say how much I admire the para athletes.  Para athletes have such challenges to conquer just to get there.  Olympic athletes just have to be the best in their event; para athletes have to be the best AND overcome big personal challenges just to get there.

I don't want to belittle the effort it takes to get to the Olympics, let alone win a medal. We're all proud of all the athletes who represent our country.  But as a disabled person myself I know that para athletes will have two big sources of satisfaction, the personal disability challenges they have overcome, and the victory of making it to the Paralympics.  For all of these athletes, life consists of overcoming your disability.  It's a constant battle every day.

As Bruce Crave, a Paralympic and Olympic trainer since 1988 has said: 'They are where they are because they're fighters and they are usually a bit stubborn and they're not going to take no for an answer."  Pretty good attitudes to become a para athlete!

I hope you get some time to pay attention to your country's para athletes over the next two weeks.  Just remember the challenges they've faced to get there.

** Credit to CBC for all pictures.

Monday, August 23, 2021

How is a Ride the Same as a Walk?

 I'm sure you realize that I'm getting out for a ride every chance I get these days.  Far too soon cooler fall weather will curtail my exploring, but I'll get out as much as I can in this warm weather!  I expect you feel a bit pleased for me that I can get out and about, but also think that a ride isn't as good as an actual walk.

I'm here to get you thinking differently.

My most recent 'me-in-my-chair' picture.

I've been brought to the realization that a ride is almost as good as a walk simply because I feel so good when I return home.  I feel refreshed and pleased with myself.  I've successfully got myself out and about and enjoyed it.  So what parts of a ride are the same as a walk?

Obviously I can't use the big muscles in my legs as you all do going for a walk.  But I certainly use all my other senses, including some you probably don't think of.

Using my vision is probably the same as you going for a walk.  Except that I have to look all around me, especially for traffic (and pedestrians on the downtown sidewalks) while you're just looking at your feet too much.  My mind seems to absorb what I'm seeing too, even when I'm not consciously thinking about it.  So I can later run down those streets remembering every corner and every building.  

At the same time I'm really enjoying my surroundings while meeting people and getting to know them.  I ask the women who serve me coffee for their names and memorize them, then I can be a little more friendly than average.  I notice trees, houses, the water, and activities that are always a little different.  I'm unconsciously memorizing the best paths on some roads to avoid the patches of crackly pavement (an engineer told me yesterday that those are called 'alligator cracks').

Vision is also the foundation of my sense of balance, of my spatial orientation to the world around me, and of safety.  Some cracks on downtown sidewalks are big enough that I have to slow down to go over them.  Downtown traffic light intersections demand special attention, both for my angle going down onto the road or back up onto the sidewalk, and for stupid drivers!

Hearing has also become much more important.  I find I can hear cars coming behind me even at quite a long distance.  Hearing prompts me to look to see the source of noises, and I guess I'm unconsciously assessing the safety risk every time.

I'm always alert to the sound of birds calling.  Downtown they're dominated by the raucous calls of gulls at the harbour, but I even notice the twittering sparrows.  And the other day I watched the shadows of a flock of pigeons fly back and forth across the main intersection.  I doubt that most people even noticed.

The sense of spatial orientation is also always important.  I always know where I am, both in relation to the longer route downtown and home again and to my immediate surroundings.  You seem to develop a 'sixth sense' that helps you be aware of and assess everything around you.

I seem to retain my sense of balance pretty easily, but when going up and down hills (as I have to going downtown or coming home) I do adjust the tilt of my chair.

I get lots of fresh air when I'm moving.  You be surprised at the breeze I generate moving along in the chair, faster than most people can walk.  It's like going for an endless slow jog, but with no physical effort.  Even on the hottest days I'm comfortable as long as I'm moving, or stop in the shade.  And I should note that the shade of a tree is far cooler than the shade of a building.

Going for a ride is not merely a physical experience, but a sensory experience, just as going for a walk should be much more than just exercise.  I interact with my environment, both maintaining my safety and accomplishing something.  So to me going for a ride is much closer to going for a walk than I every initially thought possible.

Because I notice the small things, and have no-one I'm trying to keep up with, I might even argue that going for ride is better than going for a walk!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Pistils, Stamens and Pollinators

Mrs. F.G. has always chosen plants to favour pollinators, from butterflies down to tiny bees.  We feel she's been quite successful as there are always bugs of various sorts buzzing around the garden.  That gave her the idea that I should do a post on stamens and pistils, which are of course critical to the flowers reproduction and entirely dependent on pollinators.

Pistils and stamens are usually easy to see, as are pollinators.  You can clearly see the single longer pistil in these Hosta flowers,, and several slightly shorter stamens that carry the pollen.

This Day Lily flower is an excellent example and easy to see.  The single tall white stem is the pistil and the three visible shorter stems are the stamens, with the pollen held at the top.

There are lots of pollinators, from bumblebees on down.

Two tiny bees on a Daisy and three little bugs on a Poppy.

It was the Cleome flowers that first struck Mrs. F.G.  Look at how far out the pistils and stamens reach.  Even here you can probably see the difference between stamens (with pollen) and pistils (without).

There is only one pistil totally visible here, at the top, looking mostly greenish and longer than the pollen-holding stamens.  The pollen on some stamens here simply has not matured yet.

Here is an interesting mix of tiny pistils and stamens on a Zinnia.

On this Agapanthus the stigma, the end part of the pistil, is held horizontally while the stamens are held vertically, all slightly brown against the blue flower.

The tip of the pistil of a Crocosmia flower is actually divided in three.  There seems to be an endless variety of form for pistils and stamens, at least in our garden.  Hopefully all the pollinators can figure it out!

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Drive Down and Home

The drive down to Conn is one we enjoy because it's all on back roads, and we even take some 'backer' roads than most.  And we worked in a short visit with bloggers Bill and Patsy Richards on the way which was memorable.

On our way down, just south of our previous home, we stopped for a moment beside a beautiful field of sunflowers, all turning toward the road for their picture1

And shortly after we got to Bill and Patsy's.  We're blogging friends, and I started following Bill's blog, 'On Our Way' first, but as I told Bill, he doesn't post nearly often enough.  Patsy posts on her blog, 'ChillinwithPatsy' every day and I really enjoy keeping up with her daily life.  They live in their big RV full time, and normally head for Arizona in the winter.  Last year they were faced with staying here and found a small apartment to rent in Paisley.  

You'll see that Bill took up my challenge and posted 'For the Furry Gnome: Part One' the very next day.  He has a fascinating hobby, building remote-controlled model airplanes and flying them, so I'd like to hear a lot more.  His latest one has a fifteen-foot wingspan!  Patsy's is one of the best daily blogs I read.

I'll never forget them visiting me in the rehab hospital in London.  They were the only people who came to see me who I had not actually met in person until then.  I was out in the garden, and when I looked up and saw them I was totally astonished!

After our visit to Conn we drove north through our favourite road in the woods.  Just one concession long, this road has no homes, so it's not maintained in the winter, but it's beautiful the rest of the year.  

Here we're driving into the shaded heart of the woods, and on through dappled sunlight.  It's not actually a road entirely in the woods, but the road allowance is completely forested, so it feels like a drive through the woods.

We always drive slowly through here and really enjoy it.  Eventually we drop down over a rise and come to the end, out into the sunshine again.

Then through the hamlet of Swinton Park where we pass the architecturally interesting Swinton Park Presbyterian Church.  We were inside for a Strawberry Social a few years ago.  Besides the bell tower, (with a bell still up there no less!) the inside is square in shape, and all wood finish.  We thought it was quite beautiful.  Once the heart of the community, which also had a general store, this church now faces a bleak future as do most small rural churches.