June 2010


Today was our last day in Toronto. We went to Casa Loma, a castle built by Sir Henry Pellatt. What a house.

Casa Loma

Casa Loma


After that we parked the car at a subway station and took the train down to the harbor. We walked around a bit and saw a ship calling itself the HMS Bounty. The real HMS Bounty was burned by the mutineers at Pitcairn Island so it would not be spotted by the British Navy who was searching for them. After a bit of checking, I found that this is the Bounty II which was built for a movie about the mutiny. They were planning to burn it at the end, but Marlon Brando (playing Fletcher Christian, the head mutineer) threatened to walk off the set if they went through with it. So there it was in Toronto today. It’s participating in the 2010 Great Lakes United Tall Ships Challenge, but really, I don’t know anything at all about that.
Bounty II

Bounty II


After that we set out for St Catherines, ON, which is within easy striking distance of Niagara Falls. In the morning we’re going to visit Lakeside Park (there’s a geocache there I want to try to find), and then it’s off to Niagara.

Today we slept in a bit, having been out past midnight (with Beth) the previous evening. We had a leisurely breakfast and then set out for the Toronto Zoo. We spent pretty much the whole day there. I took something like 400 pictures, but won’t post that many here by a long shot.

The highlight of the zoo visit came when we came to the zebra pen. There was a lone male zebra about 50 yards from the fence. I approached the fence at about the same time the zoomobile came roaring through. The zebra was somewhat startled and charged me!

Charging zebra

Charge!


He was braying like a donkey the whole time too. Sort of the haw without a hee I guess. Then he calmed down again.

We saw tons of animals, and spent something like six hours there. That is one recipe for sore legs. Beth’s favorite part was when we paid $6.00 for a camel ride:

Beth riding a camel

Beth, the camel jockey


When we got to the gift shop she went searching for a camel (and found one!) The stuffed camel cost more than twice as much as the camel ride.

We returned to our hotel and worked on choosing a restaurant for dinner, finally settling on The Pickel Barrel. I thought it was very good, and Va did not seem displeased with it either. They did take their time with her entree though, and offered free dessert to make it up. I was so stuffed though that I thought it would have been folly for me to eat another bite (even of a wafer thin mint!) so I passed.

I’ve long thought that restaurants should offer what I call “dolly service” for those times when you’re so stuffed you don’t want to get out of your chair. The wait staff would then come by with a furniture dolly, hoist your chair onto it and wheel you out to your car. Every guy I’ve ever talked to about this idea has thought it would be great, and every woman I have ever mentioned it to has been horrified.

Today we went to the Ontario Science Center and the CN Tower. Here’s a scene from the Science Center:

Ontario Science Center

Ontario Science Center


We arrived here around lunch time, had some lunch, and then went to the Science Center. Then we had dinner, and at 8:00pm-ish, we headed to the CN Tower. I guess we’re insane for doing that with an eight year-old girl in tow, but vacations are times for craziness, so off we went. Beth really enjoyed her first subway ride:
Beth's First Subway Ride

Beth's First Subway Ride


And the view from the top of the tower was pretty awesome too:
Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario


It was quite dark out, contrary to what this photo might lead one to believe. It was a pretty long exposure. I have many more pictures, but the Internet connection from our hotel is pretty deplorable, so I won’t suffer through that to post more. Maybe when we get home I will.

This morning Va, Beth, and I set out for Almanzo Wilder’s boyhood home. It was about a five hour drive from our house. Here’s Beth in front of the house:

Almanzo Wilder's Boyhood Home

Almanzo Wilder's Boyhood Home


There is a huge maple in the yard too:
Huge Maple

Huge Maple


We bought a nightcap for Beth and several postcards. Then we set off for Canada. It took over an hour to get over the border. I dunno if that was because of the G20 wrapping up their business in Toronto today or not, but it sure was a slow slog across the St Lawrence River.

Today after church, David, Beth and I took the canoe down to Sandogardy Pond. As soon as we got there, I realized I had left my camera at home. Bummer. We paddled around the pond, and I noticed several species of flowers that had freshly bloomed: pickerel weed, pipewort, swamp candles, and grassy arrowhead.

Not having my camera, I wrote them all down. But when we got home again, and after I put away the canoe, I decided I would go back. This time I would bring Penny (she needed the exercise) and the camera. Beth came too.

On the way, we found some ripe blackberries. To my surprise, Beth tried one. To my utter astonishment, she liked it. Pretty soon we came into a patch of raspberries too, and she gobbled a few of those down too. Then we saw some strawberries, and finally, some blueberries:

Ripe blueberries

Ripe blueberries


She had some of those as well, and they were very good! A little farther down, I noticed some Pyrola:
Pyrola

Pyrola


I don’t know the species (the genus is Pyrola though) as there are half a dozen or so in my field guides, and I have never been able to decide which ones I’m seeing. Three years ago I found a single specimen. This year, I noticed them by their foliage all over the place, but this is the first one I’ve seen in bloom this year. Then I saw some cow-wheat (Melampyrum lineare):
cow-wheat (Melampyrum lineare)

cow-wheat (Melampyrum lineare)


This is a plant that has been growing by a birch log I felled a couple of years ago. I’ve been looking for it this year, but have so far failed to find any (on my property). I was glad to see this.

We finally made it to the pond.

Grassy arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea)

Grassy arrowhead (Sagittaria graminea)


This stuff was growing where I saw it last year, but it has also spread out a bit. We saw it all along the banks of the pond as we paddled around. It’s also called “duck potato”, as the roots are very potato like and were harvested in quantity by the Native Americans. They would dig it up with their toes and it would float to the surface. I’ve not tried this, as I’ve never seen it in abundance. But if it continues to spread like it has this year, I might get a chance.

Another edible wild plant on the pond was this one:

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)

Pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata)


These flowers make nut-like fruits in the fall that can be picked and eaten out of hand like granola. I’ve eaten plenty of this stuff and find it delightful. I read up a bit about the plant tonight and learned something new. It’s tristylous, meaning it comes with three distinct combinations of style and stamen length. These three varieties are tuned to various insects, so that the pollen is rubbed off the stamen on one type of insect, and then deposited on the style of another flower whose style length matches the male’s stamen length. The tuned lengths prevent the plant from self-pollinating. I thought that was pretty cool, though I’ve probably butchered the explanation.

Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)

Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)


These had popped up last time I was at Sandogardy, but now they have bloomed as well. Like the arrowhead, there were plenty more of these than in previous years. I managed to get a close-up shot of one of the flowers. They’re generally less than a quarter inch across:
Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)

Pipewort (Eriocaulon aquaticum)

Farther from the shore was a stand of Spotted Water Hemlock:

Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata)

Spotted Water Hemlock (Cicuta maculata)


This is a highly toxic plant – possibly the most toxic one in North America. The big problem is that it can be confused with Queen Anne’s Lace, aka wild carrot. They’re not hard to tell apart, but confusing them could be a fatal error. The leaves are fairly dissimilar, and the flowers from Queen Anne have three-forked bracts underneath. The Water Hemlock has no bracts at all beneath the umbel.

We headed home after a while and I saw these on the road side:

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)

Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis)


This is wild sarsaparilla. I know that some part of this plant is edible, but I don’t think it’s the berries. As usual, when I’m not 100% positive, I don’t eat a wild plant. These berries were particularly brilliant though, so I stopped to get a fairly decent shot of them. I had my tiny tripod with me, and that really helped, especially since the light was failing fast (it was clouding up pretty good too).

We got home well before any rain started. In fact… I don’t think it ever did rain. I went out a little later and watered the tomatoes, and 15 of the 16 plants I set out are all looking pretty good. Maybe I’ll have some tomatoes soon.

Today I took a stroll to the bank and came across some American nightshade (Solanum americanum

American Nightshade (Solanum americanum)

American Nightshade (Solanum americanum)


This is a poisonous plant related to the tomato & potato, and also to bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) which is more common, and about as poisonous. Actually tomato and potato are also poisonous if you eat the wrong parts.

After work Jonathan and I went to the church to install the new wireless microphones. We had a system, but on June 12 it became illegal for us to use it anymore as the FCC has reallocated some spectrum. Jonathan very much likes the new mic. I left him to do the installation and testing, and went down to the playground to talk to a couple of guys from the church. I wasn’t expecting to see them there. They were evaluating the grass which has gone to seed, trying to decide if the seed was far enough along that it would germinate if it were scattered in some areas where the grass is weak. We talked for a little while, and then I saw some ants on the pavement. They had a sow bug:

Bringing home the bacon

Bringing home the bacon


The sow bug is probably Porcellio spinicornis, but I find ants too hard to classify, so I won’t even try.

When I got home I saw some Heal-all:

Self-heal/Heal-all/Prunella vulgaris

Self-heal/Heal-all/Prunella vulgaris


It’s also called Self-heal. I assume it has some supposed medicinal properties with a name like that. Then I saw a bee, or maybe a bee-fly on some cinquefoil:
A Different Kind of Bacon

A Different Kind of Bacon


I flipped through my Field Guides, but nothing popped out. I might post this to Bugguide later. I just like the pattern on her back.

Tonight Beth and I finished reading On the Banks of Plum Creek, which was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame. Even though she had also written a book called Little House on the Prairie, the TV show was based on Plum Creek. We bought the series on DVD a while back, and Beth has been lapping them up. I’ve only managed to watch one episode, and found that it was based on a chapter in the book. They took a few liberties, but it’s pretty close. If they still made shows like that, I might watch TV again.

Yesterday as I was walking the trail in my woods I happened across some dewdrops!

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)

Dewdrop (Dalibarda repens)


This is one of my favorite plants, and the only place I know where I can find it is right here in my woods. The leaves would lead one to believe it’s a violet, but it most certainly is not. This species is, I think, what taught me to photograph flowers. It grows in the shady woods, and it has white petals. I guess I took three dozen shots of it with my old camera in Auto mode, and not one of the photos turned out well. Then I found the macro button and read up on it. The camera was still over-exposing the white petals because the picture was mostly dark. So I figured out how to manually adjust the exposure time. But for that to be effective, I needed a tripod, so I got a tiny little one. By the next season, I had a new camera (my current one, a Canon S110IS), and it had a super macro lens that blew the other one away. I learned that maxing out the F-stop would improve the depth of field. I think my best photo ever depicted this plant, growing in basically the same place as the one above. I didn’t have a lot of time yesterday evening (supper was ready!) and there was a slight breeze, so the flower wouldn’t hold still. That’s pretty crucial when the exposure time is long. Anyhow, this is the rushed version of this year’s dewdrop.

Then today I went walking through my woods again, looking for dead trees to fell for Beth’s cabin. I didn’t fell any trees, but I did see this Indian Pipe.

Inidna Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)

Inidna Pipe (Monotropa uniflora)


Again, I didn’t have a lot of time to spend on photography. I took two shots, and this one came out kind of OKish.

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