Thursday, August 27, 2009

Skywatch Friday - Ahhh moments ...

(see more Skywatch posts here )

Pretty colours in the sky last night.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Where do ski slopes go on their summer holiday ?

This is Nakiska Ski Resort in the middle of August. I admit I've never really paid much attention to the place, except when approaching it in the middle of January whilst battling my mind to focus on a day of exercise and 'fun'. Needless to say, it looks substantially whiter at that time. And suffice to say I am not a natural born skier but I can proudly report being able to remain upright on two planks for more than twenty minutes (consecutively) .

I have visions of a summer wonderland - lush and swishing grassy meadows cutting a swathe amongst the pine trees, with butterflies and colourful wildflowers, and bears frolicking happily while downing a pot of honey and gorging on berries.

The area is technically closed to the public but I would imagine serious walking folks (ie, not me) specifically make their way to these temporarily abandoned ski hills for a good old hike in the peace and quiet.

It must be nice for the ski hills to be able to breathe again after being assaulted by snow, man and machine for 5 months each year. A collective sigh of relief probably whispers out from the ski hills sometime in June, and the gondolas and chair lifts grind to a thankful halt and spend the summer months gently swaying in the breeze with a large jug of margaritas on the go.

Wish You Were Here ....
See you again in December ...
Lots of Love, Nakiska XXX

Monday, August 24, 2009

Garden Makeover - Day Three

Just a couple of pictures to update you on what I've been doing the past three days. Well, not just me - husband has been roped into this too of course, 'cos try as hard as I do, I can't shift 10 foot chunks of timber on my own - and he's very handy at digging too. I'm sure he was muttering something about gardening being devil's work but I have no idea what he means. I just ignore the mumbling and point the next bit I'd like digging. Actually, he's been brilliant and I couldn't do it without him, and I think he has secretly enjoyed this little project - it gives him an excuse to air all his tools which were gathering dust in the garage.

So from the back gate, new edging and gravel path added, 10 small Cotoneaster plants planted (in the hope of one day having a 5 foot high hedge along the back fence line. Give it about 10 years and it should look pretty good). I also risked digging up and moving a raspberry bush - it may or may be too late in the season for doing this, but the thing hasn't earned it's keep yet so I figured I had nothing to lose. I've created a specific area to keep the kid's trampoline on a semi-permanent basis too and then placed bark down for that. I must admit that this was not done for the benefit of the children but for the grass - Smudge can now continue to cock a leg and pee up the trampoline posts and no longer trash the grass underneath - genius huh?

I decided to remove a pile of big and little stones from around the base of Chokecherry tree which I suspect was planted when the house was built in the late 90's. I figured the tree could do with some mulch and nutrition. So I scraped away the oval shaped pile of pebbles and what did I find underneath? Kitchen lino, I kid you not! Who on earth puts kitchen floor vinyl around a tree? Granted, it makes a fantastic weed suppressant as not one little weed had made it through - but good grief, I'm surprised the tree was still alive. It has now been lovingly topped with a little quality soil and some bark and I sent out a neighbourhood invitation to any bugs and worms who would care to over-winter there.

Remember I said I hated digging up turf to make more flower beds? Well, last year on my gardening course I learnt about something called "lasagna gardening". No, you don't tuck into the perennial borders with a knife and fork washed down with a large glass of Chianti, though sometimes I can see how that might appeal if there was a good enough veggie patch on the go.

No, it's an easy no-digging way of making new flower beds whereby (condensed version coming up) you layer newspaper and cardboard straight on top of your grass and then top it all off with compost or topsoil and/or mulch (and a little parmesan - OK, not really) and then wait for 5 or 6 months. Apparently this will all compost down and the newspaper, cardboard and turf will decompose and hey presto, one new flower bed. So I thought I'd give it a go. This had better work or it will be one heck of mess to un-do. And for some reason, half-rotten soggy Panago Pizza boxes are not what I wish to face next spring.

So the left hand side of the garden is pretty much done already and I am very pleased with the shape and the contrasts so far. Smudge is already heading for his all-new, purpose-built bark-floored outhouse.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Garden shopping ....

... and about $1000 later, I'm ready to start digging ...

2 cu yards of stones, 2 cu yards of high grade top soil, 2 cu yards of bark mulch - $400 - think I've been "done" and will shop around next time.

One new wheelbarrow (because Old Favourite Brit wheelbarrow's wheel fell off, literally, and we couldn't source a new inner tube in the same size or a similar sized new wheel - and time is of the essence here remember - winter is around the corner, haven't got time to travel to the big smoky city hunting down an inner tube!) - $160 - seems a lot too - but when I worked at the garden centre earlier in the year, too many of the cheap wheelbarrows came back with broken wooden handles, crap design - so we 'upgraded' slightly - and I justify the cost by the fact that at the end of the spending, we will still have a funky blue wheelbarrow. Seems fair to me.

Three new trees - Caragana "Sutherland" in case you are interested (I love the fan shape and bark) originally priced at $190 each - now 50% off at the local garden centre, because they don't want to be left with lots of stock (because summer is over, remember) - $285

Two more rolls of the black weed suppressant fabric stuff - $32
Pegs to hold it in place - $16

One new shovel - $15 (and at that price, I suspect it may not last very long)

Timber - lots of treated 4x4 in varying lengths, to act as edging strips and dividers and fence posts, plus some other 'shaped' bits of wood with which to build a raised veggie patch area - $340

Box of 12" galvanised nail thingies - $80 (nearly choked at that price)

Three new grasses - also in the end of season sale - $40

Husband's dropping jaw as he loaded up the minivan - priceless

(And I haven't even finished yet - shopping that is .... )

Tune in next time to witness my Popeye biceps which will morph over the next week or so as I barrow this lot round the back of the house ....

Friday, August 21, 2009

Launching the garden project ...

The garden - or yard as it is called it here (why is it called a yard, anyone? A yard to a Brit is a concrete 12' x 12' area behind a small terraced house (think Coronation Street) or somewhere truck drivers work from, or a London Metropolitan Police HQ, as in Scotland ...) - OK, minor digression. I'll start again.

So - the garden is in for an extreme makeover. I know it's the third week in August and by all accounts summer is over according to the locals (la la la, I'm not listening!) but by my reckoning I still have a good month or two to play with the garden and create some shapes, paths and flower beds. And anyway, it was 32 degrees today and we're in for at least one more week for warmth and sunshine - so I'm off and ready. And sunburnt already.

As whilst feeling a bit despondent about employment and slim finances, I might as well make myself useful by spending $$$ of the household budget on my plot! 'Tis the female way - no money? Go shopping!

I drew up my ultra amateur garden design the other day - which, when I've worked out how my scanner works, I might be bold enough to put up on here - and then got rid of an awful concrete (utilitarian) fire pit that took pride of place in the centre of the grass courtesy of the previous non-gardening owners of this home.

This is what I am working with.

My garden is basically a big square lump of grass, with some grass, with a bit more grass and tree in each corner. It is surrounded by, in my humble opinion, hideous green chain link fencing (rules of the neighbourhood) which leads to no privacy or screening whatsoever. My British heart nearly fainted at the exposure! Last year I made up one crescent shaped flower bed, and then this spring I created one more oblong flower bed. Digging up turf - or sod as it's called here - is not my idea of fun. Back breaking work, hummph!

I got a man in (!) during May to aerate the lawn with one of those fancy machines that punches holes all over the lawn, and then distributes little sausages of earth and grass all over the place. Personally, I think it just looks the dogs have gone overtime on the pooping department. Smudge looks guilty, doesn't he?

The whole aerating thing, and then adding fertiliser did absolutely nothing to the quality of this lawn which has had it's day, and to be honest, I've given up on the grass this year. I can't keep up with the dandelions, nor the dark circles created by the female canine in the household.

So this is a photo of Day One. The grass is in shit order - thanks to two dogs who pee with gay abandon anywhere they feel the urge - and two children (who do not pee in the garden as far as I know) but who have the audacity to actually play on the lawned area and knacker it out. The current state of affairs is an embarrassment to be sure, and all I need are a couple of old tyres and a half-shredded sofa and I'm sure the local residents association will be drawing up a written warning any day now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

When no-one's looking ...

Looking through my photos, I have many snapshots of people - of friends and family and a few unknowns - when they were unaware of me standing around with a camera.

I love these kinds of pictures - where the subject is not aware they are being photographed. And I don't mean this in some weirdo, pervy, jump-out-of-the-bushes way, or like the paparazzi with some creepy telephoto lens. No, I just mean that you can catch people in such a natural, unaware, un-posed split-second of their life - they are concentrating on the task in hand, be it building a sand castle, playing a game or getting blindingly drunk. I suppose a part of them is exposed in some way - I'm not exploiting anyone here - but it highlights the part of me that just loves to people watch. I could sit in an airport or supermarket for hours and not get bored. (And to any friends and family that may view this blog, don't panic, I won't publish those photos ! )


Kitchen Chaos no more

Posted a few weeks ago about chipping off tiles and generally making a mess.

Well, we're nearly there - new countertops (no longer pink) and new tiles (white gloss begone) - I'm still getting used to it all - it makes the room a little darker and the tiling is very 'busy' - but the room is bright anyway and I really like the change. Haven't gone mad - just some tweaking and updating, and we still need to go and buy a extractor hood. And who gets excited about a new sink and taps? ..... yes, me !

This is the "Before" ....

And this is the "After" ....

Done. Now then, what's next ?

Mmm, the garden ...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Close to my home ...

And why I like where I live. Mostly.

These were taken at different times of the year, so the level of greenery or brown is tied to the season. Needless to say, by about March, I'm sick of brown grass (that's if you can see it, and it's not actually covered in the white, cold, slippy stuff!)

This one was taken in June - the Rockies still covered in lots of snow ...

This is in July - the heat haze blocks out the view of the Rockies - they are out there somewhere, honest ...

Taken early one morning last September - parts of the town and the foothills are obscured by the low lying mist ....

And this is during sunset in January. Note that the boring browns are flatteringly golden in the sunlight!

This was taken from the pathway where I often walk the dogs - around a golf course around a ravine that dips down to the Bow River below. The small dark straight line at the bottom left of the picture is the rail line that runs precariously close to the rivers edge in some places.

Taken last week from the big hill near our home (that I had mentioned previously from where the paragliders jump - I was trying to video my husband leaping off the hill but I buggered up the zoom for his little flight - sorry G - we'll try again next week!). My home is in the road to centre-left. It's amazing how much of the landscape can be obliterated by a bit of heat, but that field in the background is currently bright yellow.

And finally - this is a cloud. It is at the same level as the highway upon which we were driving. No, it's not fog, or mist - it is a proper cloud. The land beside the highway drops down considerably and this highway is rising at it travels northwest anyway - so we were literally driving alongside clouds. I had never seen anything like it - just wanted to reach out and grab a handful, then put it in a little jar to cleanse my face with later on - wonderful.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The bear necessities of life will come to you

Just wanted to share my bear !

Seen at Kananaskis Park (Alberta) at the beginning of June this year. She was beautiful - thick, glossy and shiny fur in the sunlight as she came out from behind some trees and wandered in our direction. We were safely tucked up on a balcony of the Interpretive Centre and she suddenly appeared.

I was so excited - it was hard not to squeal with delight.

So instead, we just put the camera shutter into overdrive.

She just kept walking towards us - stopping to sniff the air regularly (I did shower that morning) and obviously sensed no sign of us, or danger...

Then she just plonked herself down by a hole and kept digging - foraging for what, I am not sure. So gorgeous.

However, the warden from the Interpretive Centre came out about 10 minutes later and was none too happy that Mrs Bear had got so close to the building, so she enrolled our kids in a shouting session to scare her away. What a shame - I could have sat there for hours just marvelling at this creature.

She apparently had a cub hidden back up by the trees but we did not get to see him. Now then, I might just have squealed with delight if I'd seen him!

So chuffed that day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Random fish

I was walking the dogs close to my home yesterday - it is a pathway that winds around a ravine around a golf course. So, to my left is manicured green perfection, and to my right it is wild, prickly and grassy and just as nature intended. I like the diversity!

The location is probably about a mile from the river and half a mile from a small golf course lake.

So imagine my amusement when I saw this in the middle of the footpath.

Yes, it's a very dead fish. How random. (Photo quality not great as taken with phone.)

There had been a terrific thunderstorm the night before with very high winds and horizontal rain - I wondered if the fish had somehow been picked up from the lake and hurled hundreds of metres away? But I'm not entirely sure that the lake would even have fish (it's one where the golfers get to practise their shots and the golf balls land in the water - surely there would be several concussed fish each day?!)

Or maybe it's nothing so exciting as flying fish in thunderstorms - and perhaps a lost heron just dropped his lunch on the way home?

Regardless, the dogs were intrigued.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Waterton National Park

More photos of more lakes and mountains, just in case you needed another fix. One can never get enough of beautiful views I think. Food for the soul.

View over the village, taken from the car park of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton. Love the change in colours of the water. I think this might be more spectacular in about May when there must still be snow on the mountains. Note to self to re-visit at other times in the year.

And the building in the background of this daft picture of prancing children is the Prince of Wales Hotel. Old by Canadian standards really, opened in 1927. Looked nice, too pricey for our budget at this time, and potentially more in keeping with an adult weekend away with no kids in tow!

Doe, a deer, a female deer; Ray, a drop ...... oops, came over all musical there. Here is my inspiration. There is a notice at the entrance to the park to keep away from the deer. The females are apparently pretty aggressive in protecting their little ones at this time of year. Mind you, they are obviously very comfortable wandering around the streets of the town, I lost count of how many we saw (or maybe it was just one or two of them playing their favourite game of hide and seek with the dumb tourist).

Excuse quality of next couple of photos, but you don't like to hang around.

One 'downside' to having these four-legged ladies and gents wandering the residential areas is that they probably don't have a too discerning appetite. I suspect they will happily munch on just about anything that anyone plants and tries to grow. Hence, virtually every tree and shrub, and all the planter boxes were wrapped in chicken wire. Kinda goes against the point of making it look pretty!!

For my botanical friends, this is the lesser spotted Milliner's Tree, part of the Hataceae family. The non-fragrant flowers open spontaneously throughout the year and can be different colours, sizes and shapes depending on location. Some sightings in other areas have been reported and include small five-fingered flowers similar to gloves, long colourful leaves resembling scarves, and small, hard cased and colourful nuts similar to a children's drinking beakers and dummies.

And finally, oh cootchie coo, a picture of cuteness. Isn't he (or she) gorgeous? I didn't see mum around this time, but she was probably lurking in the shadows, sharpening her hooves, just in case ...