Monday, November 23, 2009

Little Folk Meadow

Little Folk Meadow

This is an image of the meadow area of the Little Folk property in Elora, Ontario. One of my studio class projects is to devise a master concept plan (with section drawings, elevation drawings, and perspectives) for the property.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guelph Sunset

This picture was taken looking off the other side of the bridge. Depending on when class is out and when the sun sets, I get to enjoy the sunset as I walk home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guelph Sunrise

guelph sunrise

I walk across the Heffernan St. Bridge to get to the bus stop every morning. Yes, I walk, even when I maybe should run... thank goodness for the express bus, eh?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Contour Assignment

Model building! It can be fun. It can be frustrating. It can be dangerous. One thing for sure, it always takes tonnes of time. This is a pic of the contour assignment I did last month. I'll take a picture of my house model when I get it back and post that as well.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Field Trip: Toronto

Our first MLA field trip was last Thursday. We spent the first two thirds of the day wandering around Toronto's downtown looking at condo developments (Canada's particular style of condo/apartment tower - the kind we associate most with Vancouver but that also exists in Toronto) and waterfront developments. I liked the Music Garden (note: music plays at the link), designed by Julie Messervy and based on a piece of music by Bach, but I thought it was interesting to see how the spiral paths of the design had been broken by people cutting across to other areas. Humans do like taking the most direct path from point A to point B, after all.

Here is a picture of Karl Foerster feather reed grass and white asters. I wonder if they were planned or opportunistic native travellers?

Music Garden asters and grass

Here is one of Toronto's new wave decks:

Wave deck

Toronto's waterfront suffers from its isolation from the rest of downtown, and (I think) the lack of any earlier organizing principle. Much of the newer (e.g. post 1950) development was built on what were historically massive rail yards. And the scale of these developments just doesn't work with the kind of tourism uses I think the city might have been hoping to promote. They can't do anything like Halifax's waterfront, which works at a very approachable, small-business scale that the tourist can enjoy and explore. They'd have been better to put aquariums, museums, and concert space along the waterfront. I just don't see how Toronto plans to successfully encourage its own citizens to use the waterfront, and how it hopes to keep tourists there after they have done their boat tour.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Field Trip: Guelph Arboretum

This wasn't so much a field trip as it was a weekly happening in my Landscape Resource Analysis class, but here are two images from the Guelph Arboretum. A fair chunk of the arboretum lands are actually reverting to forest naturally, so there are open meadows with the poplars (Populous tremuloides, natch) just creeping across. The asters are in their glory right now. I find the species here in Ontario bigger and much more vibrant than the varieties we get in Nova Scotia. There are more pink ones, too. Anyway, I just love them.

Asters in the afternoon light:

Asters in the afternoon

And a close-up:


Clearly, these pictures are not from the class where we spent 3 hours walking around in the rain identifying trees.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Scotland Found

I started taking pictures of Guelph to share on the blog and with friends, when I realized my memory card had become dislodged and my images were recording onto the built-in camera memory. Along with those photos, I discovered a handful of images from my 2006 trip to Scotland (!!!) that I never downloaded to my computer. Here are the usable ones from that batch:

stones in Argyll, Scotland 2006

This one is of standing stones somewhere in Argyll, on the way from Crinan back to Lochgilphead.

Across from Crinan, Scotland 2006

This is taken at the mouth of the Crinan Canal, looking across the water. I was told a tale about the ghost of a hand-less bagpiper haunting the basement of the house. Charming!

Crinan boat Scotland 2006

This was also taken at the mouth of the Crinan Canal.

Finding those images really, really, really made me want to go back to Scotland. Maybe I will get the chance to work there some day, after this degree is finished (fingers crossed) and before I settle down in my own "New Scotland."

Monday, September 07, 2009

Joe Howe would know

"Take a Nova Scotian to Ottawa, away above tidewater, freeze him up for five months, where he cannot view the Atlantic, smell salt water, or see the sail of a ship, and the man will pine and die."

- Joe Howe

Well, I'm not quite pining-and-dying, but the fan blew in my ear today and I just ached to be out sailing on the harbour. For the moment, the thought of sailing fills me with homesickness, but I think in a week or so it will probably be my happy place. That and tending the veggie garden - I'm kicking myself that I didn't get to harvest my basil or a single tomato before I left!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Thesis: Formatted

My thesis is complete! At least until I have my defence and they tell me to change things. I had a nightmare of a wrestling match with Microsoft Word the last few days - the full thesis file became corrupted and it was entirely unusable. Had to break everything back down into its composite parts, re-format what I'd lost, and print it off separately. But it's finished! Now I just have to deliver. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow I'll be really mad.

Friday, August 07, 2009


Abandoned Robin nest

Poor robin's egg, abandoned by it's parents. I don't know why they gave up on their nest. Too many grackles around? Lost a parent? The rainy weather? I don't know if the bluejays ever reached fledgling stage - we had a very bad rainstorm one night and I never saw them again, and maybe the same happened to the robins.

In any case, this forlorn little egg just about breaks my heart, and I'm trying my best not to draw any comparisons to my ridiculous thesis turmoil and swift-approaching deadline.

robins egg macro

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

White Admiral

Limenitis arthemis arthemis, a White Admiral butterfly, taken in Bedford, NS just minutes after leaving its chrysalis (a moment which I, alas, missed).

butterfly on paver

I love this second one, where she is still hanging off the empty chrysalis - check out those eyes! And she's such a Marilyn, too (always ready for her close-up).

butterfly eye

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Lobster Jenny

Lobster Jenny

Our golden creeping jenny plants appear to be growing antennae. Strange thing, that.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Round the Trellis - garden project


Dad made a trellis for the edge of the deck where I recently removed/rescued a shaded spirea. I helped him one day by cutting the metal strips and then putting them in the rolls to turn them into rings. He did most of the prep work and all of the assembly; welding gear makes me fear for my life. All that electricity and explosive compressed gases and spattering molten metal. How handy is it to have a sheet metal worker for a father! I enjoyed the two afternoons we spent together working on it, even the backache-causing two hours it took us to paint the trellis.


Straight on, the trellis sort of disappears, but from an angle it looks awesome. It doesn't hurt that the forsythia is in bloom right now, and hopefully the clematis that I planted will fill in soon enough (but maybe not - it has had wilt the last two years, and although I dug up a massive root ball, it looks like most of it was dead - only two little crowns on the top of the plant are alive, and it looks like cutworms got to those, argh). If it doesn't survive, we can always buy another, and I can also plant morning glory or scarlet runners to fill it in this season.


This is the south-east part of the deck, looking towards the dining room and kitchen part of the house. On the left is the forsythia, outgrowing its space (because that's what they do, although I prune out the oldest branches ever year so it stays pretty open). In the center is the trellis -- don't mind the patio furniture cover, it hasn't exactly been a warm spring, barring a nice day here and there -- and then on the right end of the deck, you can barely see our new, tiny, Umbrella Bamboo, Fargesia murialae. It clumps! It's semi-evergreen, and it eventually gets at least 6 feet tall! It was only in the ground for a few minutes before the breeze started teasing it and the dry leaves made a soft, papery rustling sound. Love.

gardenI also divided up the plain-jane perennials that had run rampant in this bed, and put some much smaller clumps back, this time on the outside edge of the bed.

I'm really pleased with this garden project. It's the first of this year's spring yard projects to be completed start to finish, and I think we will get years of enjoyment out of that trellis. It was pretty "sustainable," as most of the trellis is made up of metal scraps that were heading to the recycling depot, and we used rust paint that otherwise would have just dried up and been thrown out. The best part is that we designed and made it ourselves!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

One Egret

On Sunday Dad and I spent a few hours at his work, cutting, bending, and welding strips of metal for a trellis we're working on. We stopped by an empty lot in the industrial park where people (possibly the nearby senior's home?) dump their yard waste. We scored a giant clump of daylilies (I expect Stella d'Oro since they're so common), a handful of tiny spring bulbs that I think are Scilla siberica, and a type of rose was abandoned long ago and naturalized, which my father sort of remembers to be white with a prominent yellow center. I'll know for sure once it blooms!

We also found a young beech tree to plant, which we are both rather geekily keen on. I have high hopes that ours is resistant to the beech bark disease, since we found it in Woodside, which is one of the longest-exposed areas to the disease (it was introduced to North America via Halifax in 1891), and none of the beeches in the grove were afflicted (that I could see). The tree's name is either Beatrice or Bernice. I like Beatrice more as a name, but Bernice seems to fit Woodside better.

Then, to cap off a lovely sunny day (although the wind was puffy and cold), on our way home we saw this Great Egret hunting for little eels in a small marsh right next to the road:


(The egret is over-exposed because the camera couldn't light meter properly for his brightness - and I also over-corrected the saturation when I corrected the exposure as best I could. Normally I wouldn't point this out but I'm feeling confessional tonight and too lazy to fix it).

PS: I'm still keeping up with my NS Landscape blog, I try to post once a week. My latest post is on Devil's Island.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I wrote my first guestblog this week! You can find it over at The Egalitarian Bookworm, which I read regularly. I actually wrote two posts for blog author Fellowette. The guestpost has me rather literally chewing over the scenery on the Little Dorrit miniseries currently airing on PBS. The other blog, which I will post below, were some general comments on Episode 4, which aired this past Sunday.


Episode four of Little Dorrit, “In Which the Plot Continues to Build Just Like the Other Three Episodes So Far.” I started reading the book about the same time as the miniseries started airing. Last week was the first week I was ahead of the novel, and since I finished it last week, the interest is building to find out how Andrew Davies finishes up the story – his adaptation has been pretty faithful so far.

Some of the highlights of this week’s episode for me:

The “previous episode” montage – why in the world was the final clip of that montage the shot of Rigaud/Blandois barking? “Last week on Masterpiece Theatre: momentous event, touching moment, building mystery, summary of characters, swelling music, man barks like dog. End summary.”

Flora’s staircase groping – this was made even more hilarious just knowing that it is in the book as well. Doyce and Clennam

The amount of hat-wearing. I always judge the quality of a costume drama based on the amount of hat and bonnet-wearing. Poor quality versions (see: Billie Piper Mansfield Park) always have the heroine walking around in public without a bonnet on, yet if it was actually 1812/1825/1848/etc., any lady in public without a bonnet on was bound to be a total hussy. Of course, moments after I wrote “HATS. Good on the filmmakers” in my notebook, Little Dorrit showed up in scene without one on. The filmmakers were spared my hissy fit by having LD carrying her bonnet in her hands, but I remain skeptical.

I am uninitiated into the mysteries of the Anglican Church, but I thought Fanny and Sparkler’s wedding looked awfully big C Catholic to me. And I know that can’t possibly be right, because I read Georgette Heyer’s Devil’s Cub so I know that all Protestant English people abroad search high and low for protestant clergy to make the marriages legit, right?

John Chivery’s visit to Dad Dorrit was fantastic. DD was threatening and remorseful and proud and predictably changeable (e.g., same old codger as always with a soupcon of fire poker), and Chivery was suitably terrified and bewildered. I cannot WAIT for him to show his stuff next episode (provided it goes similar to what happens in the book). But I have to say, having read the book and also a chapter from Christine Stansell’s book City of Women into which garish working class clothing plays an important historical role, I wish his waistcoat was a bit flashier.

Matthew Macfadyen’s acting – this, not so much because he had a lot to work with, particularly with L.D. so far away in Venice – but because I have been watching the first season of MI5 (Spooks) on PBS and am smitten with Macfadyen’s character Tom Quinn. I mean, I’ll be honest here: I thought he was a pretty bland Mr. Darcy, rather sullen and brattish, yet meek. Matthew Macfadyen is to blankface as Michael Emerson is to wide-eyed scheming. But watching him employ blankface as a spy softened me toward Macfadyen overall, so that watching Arthur Clennam this week meant I saw gentleness instead of confusion. You get to sort of watch thoughts wash over Clennam's face, without having a clue what he's thinking (unless you've read the book). It was an improvement in helping me appreciate Macfadyen's acting (although I still think Arthur has more spirit than Macfadyen gives him credit for - he was a little too tentative when he called Rigaud a scoundrel).

Thursday, April 09, 2009


Pysanky red
My best friend decided we needed to learn how to decorate pysanky (Ukrainian easter eggs) this year. I was more than happy to go along. We took a 3-hour class with a local artist last Saturday, and then had to fend off headaches/migraines for the rest of the day! Note: staring into a candle for hours may be hazardous to your health.

Once I learned to only decorate in bright light, the eyesight issue was mostly resolved. I decorated the egg above - my second attempt - last Saturday, and the one below (for my best friend, hence the initials) tonight. In this second egg, I was layering light blue over red, and took the egg out before the red was completely gone. While wet it was still a dark purple colour, but unfortunately it dried navy blue. I don't have an issue with navy blue, but I know my friend J. wanted eggs in more pastel colours. Sorry, J! Maybe on my next try.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What I've been up to

I'm test running a new blog idea! You can take a look at it here, let me know what you think if you think anything. No pressure.

I do really like the concept for the other blog, but will continue to blog here as my personal blog. The other one is more topical and focused, but I'm still going to need an outlet for my garden attempts, birdwatching, and other miscellanea.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

From MacDonald Hill

From MacDonald Hill

I took this last November from the top of MacDonald Hill (the one with a house on it) in Lawrencetown, NS. On a windy day you can almost lean over the bank and the gusts alone will prevent you from tumbling over the edge. It's much nicer to have the wind prevent you from falling than it is having it try and buffet you off.

I edited this image tonight for a little project I'm working on, and decided to share it here. The colours work well with my previous post. More on the new project in a bit.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Johnny jumps early

I will absolutely not be discouraged by the 15 cm (6 inches) of snow predicted for this afternoon and overnight, because I have steeled myself for snowfall well into April.* I am optimistic that, even though only the top 3 inches of ground has thawed, whatever snow falls is not here to stay. Still, I won't refrain from calling the first flower of the season a little premature, not that I'm going to complain. Tough little johnny jump-up won't be fazed by the looming blanket of snow, anyway.

First flower

Oh lawd, I just realized I'm in my purple prose phase of spring (note: I was restraining myself up above). It's usually brought on by spending a sunny March afternoon doing garden chores, and can only be cured by a healthy dose of L.M. Montgomery novels. I'll have to hold off on that for now.

*Updated to add: CBC radio just reported that the snowfall record for March 23 was in 2005, when we got 40 cm (16 inches) of snow - if I wasn't planning on complaining before, I'm certainly not now.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Hope springs eternal thesis completion

I'm eager to get on with my thesis and with some early spring seed-sowing in the coldframe, but the latter must wait on the construction of said coldframe (fingers crossed it is finished before my father --the builder-- goes on vacation to Arizona), and the former waits on, well, my ability to get over my strong aversion to all academic writing even remotely related to Ian McKay. McKay, you're very smart, but you are my wall.

I know it's self-evident, but it is still worth repeating: the longer you work on a thesis, the longer it takes to complete it. It's like a mathematical formula that never approaches zero. Jana, Jacquie, can you shed a little light on this for me?

I can at least take solace in the fact that as the days get longer my determination to finish the thesis grows as well. Spring = thesis completed = flowers and gardening, and this kind of thinking might just be what helps get me through the next month or so. Then I can enjoy things like this:

yellow flag iris

Yellow flag irises in the front yard,

heuchera flowers

An unnamed, pretty non-descript green heuchera variety with the most intense coral flowers,


And the serene blooms and soft, leathery leaves of the magnolia.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Winter eye candy

I went through some of last year's pictures tonight, looking for something to post. I haven't taken many (any?) pictures lately I thought worth sharing. Although I have been considering sharing some of my thesis work with you, I'm also nervous because the darn thing just isn't finished. Oh, in principle it's all there, but the fine tuning is not finished that will allow me to sign my name on it with satisfaction.

It was absolutely wonderful therapy looking at these pictures tonight. I had almost forgotten that things like warmth and green and busy insects and baby hares and blooming flowers and watchful frogs and keen-eyed thrushes even existed! Spring and summer are going to be sublime when they finally arrive!

Since I was doing what was essentially "window shopping" in my photo files, I thought I would share some eye candy with you -- candy tuft, that is. After planting it two years ago, the annual candy tuft has seeded with polite abandon, and pollinating insects seem to love it. To take this lame-duck metaphor to its sad, pathetic conclusion, you might even say they are "sweet" on it?

Don't worry, I'm clutching my head and groaning for you. Here are my pics:

Candytuft butterfly


Candytuft bumblebee


Candy Tuft hummingbird moth

and Hummingbird Moth

and a bonus, for your patience:

july 08 planter

This is last year's planter in front of the bay window (its last summer there).

Monday, February 02, 2009

Diving Lessons

Of the chickadee variety.

Diving Lessons

Black-Capped and Boreal Chickadee compare technique, Feb. 1, 2009.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The cat said...

head in the chair

..."wake me when winter's over."

She made the mistake of looking out the window and saw this:

snow craters

She's right, the landscape does look a bit like one of Saturn's moons right now:


But I'm still optimistic that spring is coming. The Goldfinches are putting on their summer colours, and the bluejays are looking brighter too.

image of Dione, credit NASA/JPL (download here)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Boreal Chickadee soap opera in the works?

Almost year ago I blogged about our first sighting of a Boreal Chickadee in our yard. We saw him periodically through the summer and then not at all in the autumn. About two weeks ago we saw the Boreal Chickadee for this first time this winter. Today as I was standing at the kitchen window I saw a little flash at the suet feeder, and saw not just one Boreal, but another one waiting for his or her time at the suet.

Boreal chickadee

I'm trying not to be too optimistic, but I thought I saw them inspecting a tree back in the woods that has a chickadee-sized birdhouse on it. The pair could be parent-child, siblings, or Just Friends, but I'm hoping that they are teaming up for slightly more procreational purposes (which I think is likely, since from what I can tell of our Boreal, he/she is solitary). This would be very cool, not just because I take an inappropriate amount of interest in the breeding activities of the birds in our yard, but because Boreal Chickadee populations have declined 73 per cent in the last 40 years.

I'm totally going to be the nosy neighbour watching family drama through the dining room window, binoculars in hand. You can rest assured I'll send all the Chickadee gossip your way...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mr. Bear 2 takes a break

Mr. Bear 2 takes a break

You can tell he's Mr. Bear 2 because he still has his eyes. Mr. Bear 2 was allowed to get some rest while my 2 1/2 year old nephew helped KoKo make "apple PIE??" upstairs.

Mr. Bear, meanwhile, was splayed out on the floor like a possum playing dead. He uses a number of coping methods to get by.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Eryngium lost and found

I was looking through pictures from last summer to include in my updated portfolio (it's sort of attempt #2 - I got into the Masters of Landscape Architecture program last year, but was unable to attend, so now I have to reapply). Last summer I was so stressed and distracted by my thesis, that it felt like a pretty creatively bleak time. Going through the pictures now, though, I am finding lots of really neat shots, plus many, many pictures of bees (I love me some pollinators).

Anyway. Here's a crop of a macro of an Eryngium from the front bed. I took this in September:

Eryngium macro

Thursday, January 15, 2009


halifax at night

I regret that I have been neglected this blog for the last few months. November was a creative dry spell, December I spent making presents, and January, well, this month my time is occupied by grad school applications and my thesis. Yes, that darn thesis. I have decided to finish it after all, so I have been immersing myself in 144 pages of not-yet-edited paving campaigns and tourism brochures, plus books about 1930s provincial politics and tourism across Canada. I'm finally determined to finish.

One of the few absolute positives about finishing this thesis is that I am forced to be in town more and therefore guaranteed to have more ferry trips. No matter whether the ferry is packed with people or practically empty, I always love a ferry ride, especially during the sailing off-season. I took the above picture from the ferry one night in November when the light and my shutter speed had a moment of cooperation. The sentence on the next photo is carved into one of the seats on the bottom deck. I often wonder what the person was going through when he or she wrote it. I imagine some desperate, lonely gambler making his way home from the Casino and am reminded once again why I don't like gambling (even when Georgette Heyer makes it a subject of irony and humour in the Regency Era).

Ferry Depression

Of course, that is an awfully depressing photo to leave off on, especially in a post that should essentially communicate my optimism. Between this post and my "Dartmouth Gothic" post the evidence is growing that Seasonal Affective Disorder may have set up camp in my brain - so in honour of the American robin that I saw on the lilac bush on Sunday, I'll end with warmer thoughts:

robin fluffing

I call this one "Robin Fluffing".

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Coconut snow

Marshmallow snowman

One of the things you learn about Nova Scotia very quickly is that it has very changeable weather, no matter what the time of year. In the winter, you might get an arctic blast followed by snow moving in from the west followed by a warm wind coming up from the southeast that turns everything to rain and slush and fog, while 20 kilometres away they have snowpellets and just over the hill from them it is sunny, all within eight hours. There might be 10 knots of wind in Halifax harbour and 54 knots of wind in Cheticamp. Some people don't like this changeability and randomness at all. Me, I eat it up. I love the unpredictable weather. My mother loves the opportunities for amateur meteorology. But I wouldn't complain if just one day, it snowed coconut. I like coconut too.

This snowman - all credit going to my friend Jana - is from the gingerbread house Mom and I made this year, which is a replica (in shape, at least) of the Pleasant Point lighthouse.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Pig Bums for Christmas

pig bums

I don't mean to be rude by forcing pig bums on you right away, but I want to share what I think is the absolute cutest angle of the gifts I made for my nephews this Christmas. I had an excessive amount of fun shaping these two pig butts (as well as the rest of the pigs) out of newspaper and masking tape, before covering them in paper mache.

The idea for my piggy bank gifts came from me and my very thin wallet, insruction from this online tutorial that I found, and the knowledge that every 2-to-4 year-old enjoys dropping money in piggy banks and then shaking it out on the floor - an operation that started within moments of my nephews opening their gifts.

And since you've forgiven the pig butts so far as to continue reading, here is the more conventional angle - the little piggy faces:

pig faces