Calgary snapshot: Long View Polar Bear.

Beakerhead, the annual festival celebrating the mashup of science and art, rolled into Calgary this week.  I usually try to head out every year and view at least one of the spectacular art installations that the festival highlights, and last Saturday, I managed to squeak in a few minutes to head to the former site of the old Enoch Sales house to take in the Long View Polar Bear, a 35-foot likeness of one of the north’s most iconic animals.  The bear is made out of over one hundred metal doors hoods salvaged from wrecked automobiles.  The gigantic sculpture was designed “to show the connection between carbon footprint and habitat loss.”

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Last year, the same site was home to the “Up”-inspired installation Dreams Never Die, by Maria Galura , which I also went to see (but failed to post about at the time). The 114-year-old Enoch Sales house was actually integrated into this work; the long abandoned building burned down on February 2 of this year. (You can read about the history of the home here).

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Floral notes: July 2019.

If you’ve ever spent any time in the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, you have probably visited the town of Banff, located in the National Park that bears its name.  My hubby and I don’t travel to the townsite often even though it’s not very far away, but we decided to make the trip a few weeks ago so we could summit Tunnel Mountain, which overlooks the town.  Instead of driving and worrying about where we would park in the busy tourist-filled town, we took a commuter bus operated by On-It Regional Transit.  For ten dollars each way, we were able to board the bus near our home and relax enjoy the incredible scenery nap all the way to our destination and back. The On-It buses operate between Calgary, Canmore, and Banff and have a regular weekend schedule with several routes running during the summer.  It’s definitely a great option if you don’t want to drive from Calgary and back.

As for Tunnel Mountain…we had fun doing this quick trek under cloudy conditions.  It’s a short peak, relatively speaking, topping out at 1,692 metres. (It’s a 4.3 kilometre trip return, with a 300 metre elevation gain). Despite the name, the mountain doesn’t actually have a tunnel.  When the Canadian Pacific Railway was working to push tracks through the area in 1882, they wanted to blast right through the mountain.  While it was a shorter route than what was eventually constructed, it would have been far more costly, in dollars and labour, to build the tunnel.  So the mountain doesn’t have a big hole in it…but the name has stuck. (The mountain’s Indigenous names include Sleeping Buffalo, Iinii Istako, and Eyarhey Tatanga Woweyahgey Wakân).

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(I wasn’t asked or compensated to provide a review of the On-It service – we just loved it so much I wanted to talk about it!).   🙂

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There is a brand new story up at Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction, the online flash fiction magazine I publish six times a year.  Check out Ed Ahern’s bittersweet “The Spring” here.  

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We have a very cool art exhibit going on at the library branch where I work, a sample of multi-media work by children participating in art classes at the Wildflower Arts Centre.  These kids are aged 5 through 14 and it is amazing to see such talent!  Paint, charcoal, fibre, paper (collage and mâché)…the creativity is fantastic!

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Reading highlights for the month: the hilarious and action-packed YA novel The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, by F.C. Lee.  Think Chinese mythology meets California high school – it has Buffy the Vampire Slayer vibes but it’s way loonier and, quite frankly, a bit more juvenile.  But it’s silly good fun and I can’t wait for the next book…hopefully it is published soon.

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Another YA offering: M.T. Anderson’s Landscape with Invisible Hand. I laughed, I cried, I despaired. I think I was supposed to eventually feel hopeful, but that’s actually the point where the tears appeared.  This is a satirical (and just plain devastating) story of an alien invasion of Earth that has some startling, wayyyyyy too-close-to-home consequences.

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Soundtrack for the month: The 1990 grunge album “Uncle Anesthesia” by Screaming Trees; the newly-released single “Half-Light” by Madrugada.

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Early in the month, my hubby and I took a tour of the Coutts Centre for Western Heritage, near the town of Nanton, Alberta.  This amazing place is the family homestead of Dr. Jim Coutts (1938 – 2013), a prominent southern Alberta lawyer, businessman, and art collector – and in addition to all the artifacts and buildings onsite, it boasts the most incredible gardens filled with predominantly native prairie plants.  Truthfully, I hope no one noticed me while I was wandering around the grounds, because I believe my lower jaw was firmly positioned somewhere around my ankles and I may have been drooling a little.  If you happen to find yourself in that part of the province during the growing season and plants are your thing, make it a must-do pit stop – it really shouldn’t be missed.  And, if the gardens aren’t enough (what!?), the place boasts what is likely the only example in Canada of a camera obscura built from a 1920’s-era grain bin.

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These. Poppies. Seriously. 

Re: my vegetable garden.  Things are just sort of making an appearance, finally, after thousands of days of rain. I have golf ball-sized kohlrabi!  I have really diminutive turnips!  I have the smallest, most perfectly round pumpkins you’ll ever see…the kohlrabi are actually larger and at this rate, it will be about a year before I can harvest them, LOL.  The zucchini fruit might be more than five centimetres long next week…we’ll see.  I’m heartened by this new grand emergence of things but…um…cautious.  The weather has been WEIRD…it’s mid-August already and we occasionally get frost(!) at the end of the month, so you can see where I’m coming from.  I am harvesting dill and parsley and potatoes right now, which is delightful (especially as those three things go really well together at suppertime).  And these supremely pretty bush beans, ‘Dragon Tongue’, are just coming on now.  I simply want to gawk at them – they’re almost too gorgeous to eat!

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I was very rushed before the growing season began this year and I failed to get a handle on them as the months flew by. Next year, I am planning to do more winter sowing – it truly provides the jump start often needed in this climate.  If my personal assistant, Smudge, deigns to allow me to do so, I’ll start some seeds indoors as well…but she has an annoying habit of constantly snacking while at work.  😉

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Smudge’s Sage Advice: It’s important to actively track your prey in case it goes somewhere.  Even if it can’t, really.  ♥

 

 

Calgary snapshot: BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project).

FPBUMPNormandeauI love this idea so much!  One of Calgary’s oldest neighbourhoods, the Beltline, has invited local and international artists to paint murals on the walls of some of its buildings – they call the project BUMP (Beltline Urban Murals Project).  They are holding their inaugural mural festival this weekend, but as I cannot attend, I took a walk around this morning and checked out some of the artwork on my own.  (I didn’t get to all of them – but as they are permanent installations, I am excited to make more trips to view the others).

The one in the photo I’ve posted is a definite stop-in-your-tracks-and-stare kind of work.  The artist is Faith 47 (XLVII), originally from South Africa, but currently based in Los Angeles. You’ll notice the words on the left-hand side of the work: “Fortes et liber.” The provincial motto of our province, Alberta, is “Fortis et liber” (strong and free).  There have been comments on social media speculating as to why the word “fortes” is used in the work instead of “fortis” (and worrying that there may be a misspelling). I haven’t yet seen a statement from the artist so I’m curious, myself.  I checked the meaning for the Latin “fortes” and came up with “fortune,” or “luck.”  An interesting mystery!

The website for the BUMP festival is here, if you’re interested in taking a look at photos of some of the other work (a few of them are still in progress).  It’s a great initiative and I hope the community will continue to add installations in years to come!

 

 

Floral notes: Late January 2018.

While putting away picture books at work this past week, I came across an illustrator I am now officially absolutely gaga over: Sonja Danowski.  You can see some of the work she did for Michael Rosen’s story Forever Flowers here, as well as a gallery of other art she has done. An incredible talent!

Despite its name, the site American Literature doesn’t feature strictly American authors; it’s actually a great source of public domain short fiction, novels, and poetry from writers from all over the world.  Enjoy!

Although I found it a bit late (the article was published in June of last year), this information about discovering rare plants in Hawai’i using drones is fascinating (and you have to watch the breathtaking video at the end!).

Have you ever come across a dead tree with an odd spiral shape?  I’ve found a few examples on our mountain hikes but unfortunately the only photograph I have of one was taken with a film camera way back in the early 2000’s and a printed copy that I can scan and post isn’t immediately at hand.  Although the title of this article is sort of misleading, the explanation it offers is accurate. Another interesting thing to watch for during those walks in the woods!

My fave “new” recipe of last week?  This sweet and sour chicken. (I didn’t make the fried rice; I just served it over hot cooked basmati. I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup, cut back the vinegar to about 1/3 cup, and used only one egg).  Easy and delicious!

Floral notes: January 2018.

Time-lapse photography is awesome.  It’s even more awesome when it features spring flowers.  Don’t miss this! 

Here are some great photos illustrating crown shyness in trees. Next time you’re in a heavily wooded area, look up – maybe you’ll spot a display. I keep thinking I’ve seen it in aspens, but I have no documentation of it…I’m now on a mission to photograph it if I come across it. I’m not sure if Populus is a genus that exhibits it – not all trees do.

My article, “Growing Green Flowers,” published in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Heirloom Gardener, is available to read online here.

I didn’t do a lot of holiday baking, but this ginger cookie recipe was so good, I made more than one batch.  It’s gluten free but if you don’t have dietary restrictions, you should be easily able to substitute wheat flour for the GF blend.  The almond flour may also be successfully swapped out with the GF blend (or wheat flour) as well. And it’s cool if you want to omit the candied ginger, too – just add a touch more ground ginger.  ♥

Art: “Black Gold” by Sandra Sawatzky.

I spent the morning downtown at the Glenbow Museum, which is currently hosting an absolutely incredible art exhibit: a 67 meter long (220 feet!) embroidered tapestry called “Black Gold,” by Calgary artist Sandra Sawatzky.  Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry and split into 8 panels for ease of showing/viewing, this is the complete history of oil and its connection to humankind, from before we were even kicking as a species, during the days of the dinosaurs, through all the technological movements we’ve made right up to our modern car-culture.  Every detail of the story was meticulously researched and planned, each image/scene representative of people and culture and significant events on the timeline. I would have been impressed with the storytelling alone, but I can’t even begin to find words sufficient to describe the perfectly formed and beautifully executed stitching, the vibrant colours of thread she selected, and the stylized imagery and borders reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry.  I had to repeatedly remember to clap shut my gaping jaw; “Black Gold” is truly a masterpiece!

I was impressed by something I read in the artist’s statement about the medium of embroidery on fabric – Sawatzky is also a filmmaker, and she commented on the fact that the USB flash drives, external hard drives, and the computers we are currently using to edit and save film images will not survive far into the future (hopefully we will be able to save the data in a new way!), but she was resolved to create something far more durable and lasting with the cloth and thread that comprise “Black Gold.”  (In another gallery of the museum was an exhibit called Eye of the Needle; in it, there were gorgeous examples of different types of embroidery and beadwork, as well as projects detailing the quilling and tufting artistry of Canadian Indigenous people.  Some of the items were modern, while others were over a century old – an indication of the longevity of the medium).

It took Sawatzky nine years to complete “Black Gold” from start to finish, and you can read details of how she went about the work on her project blog, here.  (This separate link will take you to the Glenbow Museum’s site, where you can read about the exhibit. As the webpages change to reflect new exhibits, this link won’t last beyond May 2018, I believe, but you can at least read it now).

Next time I feel daunted by a large task (creative or otherwise), I will have to immediately remind myself of “Black Gold” and the beyond-impressive amount of work that went into it.  I am so pleased to have had the chance to see it. (And it was also delightful taking in some of the fantastic abstract paintings of Lawren Harris – one of the members of the Group of Seven – which were on display at the Museum in a separate gallery).

Floral notes – November 2017.

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It has been quite a few months since I’ve done one of these posts – let’s launch into it right away, shall we?

Have difficulty pronouncing plant names?  Me, too.  I even mangle them when I’m very consciously thinking about how not to – actually, that’s when the tongue-tangling gets truly terrific. This pronounciation guide may help.  At the very least, it’s interesting reading.

You may not live in New England (I don’t!) but your region may include some of the same plant species.  Or, you might just want to have fun with a fully interactive dichotomous key.  I’m here to help – I found this great link from GoBotany that will helpfully ID all 3,500 taxa in New England. I played with it a bit and, as expected, found that we share some of the same plant species here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Here is another ID tool – this one for bird feathers.  It is from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, so it won’t likely be conclusive in other locations.  As we share many of the same bird species in Canada, it may work in a limited fashion for us.

It’s Canada’s sesquicentennial this year and Mercury Filmworks has created an animated short to illustrate Canada, coast-to-coast.  The artwork is vibrant and fun, and there are some delightful references to some of our most famous pop culture icons.

Here’s another post that celebrates Canada’s history – this time of the Rocky Mountains.  Take a look at this small collection of photos of people working, playing, and living in the mountains – it’s an eye-opening trip!

If you enjoy reading science fiction and you’re particularly interested in the work of writers during the 1950’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s, you may wish to check out this gem: the complete run of IF Magazine from 1952 to 1974 is available to read for free, here.  Some big names wrote for and edited this magazine and if you’re a fan of the genre, you will recognize some of them.  I love that these stories won’t be forgotten.

Writers and film buffs might have fun with this incredibly comprehensive list of narrative devices and tropes.  How many of these do you recognize in your favourite movie or book?  How many of these have you used in your own writing?

Finally, libraries and museums such as the Met, the New York Public Library, and the Smithsonian have made a ton of images from their collections available for everyone to download and…well…colour.  I believe the whole sharing to Twitter part is over with for the year, but you can still access the images for your own use. #ColorOurCollections will likely return in 2018, so watch for it.  Many of these are botanical prints, so that’s rather lovely for anyone who is interested in that sort of thing (me, me!).

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Floral notes: August 2017.

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I haven’t done one of these posts in absolutely forever…well, since March, but I’m (only very occasionally) prone to hyperbole.  Because I’ve been kinda sorta busy, I don’t have a huge stockpile of links, which is probably a relief for both writer and reader.  Have fun with these!

History and botany…what could be better? I love this post from Lyndon Penner, detailing the life of Carl Peter Thurnberg (1743-1828) and his contributions to horticultural science.

Victorian pteridomania and all its wackiness and excitement is illustrated in this story.

If you’re interested in butterflies, the samples of illustrations alone in this article about the work of American lepidopterist Titian Peale will delight.  His biography is nearly as fascinating.

Anyone who crafts and sews might enjoy this fun article, which contains history and trivia about pincushions and pins.

The post needs an update (it was written in 2012) and it is a definite niche, but for anyone interested in children’s literature set in my home province of Alberta, this link will bring you to a list complete with short summaries of each work.

78 rpm records aren’t making a comeback on turntables in 2017 (although if you tossed out your collection of 33 1/3’s in the early ’90’s, you might be surprised to know that there are A LOT of us in used record stores looking for that old stuff…and we’re purchasing new albums on vinyl by current artists as well).  But if you’re interested in some 78 gems, this link will get you to a site where you can listen to hundreds of digitized songs, for free (and no pesky software download).  If you’re a music fan, be prepared to spend hours browsing!

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Garden art.

Other than a few large, rather attractive rocks that somehow migrated to my perennial beds (either during the last glacial event or when the landscapers didn’t want to hit them with a lawnmower), I don’t have any garden ornaments on display.  As I garden in a public space, it’s probably not a good idea for me to pick what type of garden art everyone in the apartment complex should be subjected to – I’m sure I’d get it wrong in at least one person’s view.  Like all art, opinions regarding garden ornaments are deeply personal, but as this blog post from Three Dogs in a Garden serves to illustrate, the line between huh? and what on earth?! is a fine one, indeed.  I wonder what my landlady would do if I plunked Bigfoot down in the Shasta daisies…?

Your turn: what types of garden art/ornaments do you have in your garden? Feel free to post links to your photos/blog posts in the comments!  

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This little statue can be found in the Shakespeare Garden at the Silver Springs Botanical Garden here in Calgary.  Photo taken in July of last year.

Floral notes – March 2017.

I haven’t posted one of these roundups in a few months (to say it’s been an insanely futile effort to get anything done busy lately is a massive understatement), but I’m always coming across interesting things to share, and I’ve been saving up links from a bunch of sources. Hope you enjoy this collection!

This amazing photography technique using UV light takes floral imagery to new heights – check out the breathtaking work of Craig Burrows here.

Granted, winter is officially over in the northern hemisphere, but it’s still well worth it to watch these jaw-dropping video timelapses of frost and other wintry occurrences, shot by Danish filmmaker Alf Pilz.

The 51st American football (NFL) championship game is also a done deal, but I love this fun post by Alys of Gardening Nirvana so much I have to share it: click over and enjoy The Super Bowl of Gardening.  

I was not previously familiar with the poetic form the Etheree, but this beautiful offering from Linda of The Task at Hand is a perfect welcome to spring.

Very early in the year, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) posted a collection of fascinating and funny wildlife photos from northern Ontario – you can take a look at them here.  There is a link at the bottom of the page which takes you to the CBC Up North Facebook page and more pics.

Finally, a smidgen of the freelancing work and fiction that I’ve been working on has been published in the past few months, including:

My very short story “Gardening in a Post-Apocalyptic World” is included in Third Flatiron Publishing’s newest anthology Principia Ponderosa.

“The Forest Formula,” my article about designing forest gardens, is featured in the Spring 2017 issue of Herb Quarterly.

The Spring issue is at the printers right now (and I have an article in it as well!), but “Grow Delicious Microgreens Indoors This Winter” was published in the Winter 2017 issue of Archive, a fantastic new print magazine out of northern Alberta.

 

Enjoy the start of your week! It’s finally starting to look and feel like spring here in Calgary!  Many years we still have a lot of snow on the ground and winter-like temperatures in late March, but we are super fortunate this year and my hubby and my brother and I were delighted to get out on the golf course this afternoon. Temporary greens, of course, but it was so great just to soak up the sunshine and play!  I love this time of year!