Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Green Ideas 2009: My garden needs one more final victory

If memory serves, I came up with the plan to turn sod and plant my next Victory Garden way back in the fall of 2008 [see right margin for complete list of my brilliant ideas].

Not because my genes supplied me with a green thumb or Puritan work ethic but because gardening relates to ‘eat local’ and a cluster of other earth-friendly benefits.

I may also have been eating a cucumber sandwich at the time and thought, “I can grow my own for Pete’s sake. How hard is that?”

Not too hard, really. I turned soil with my hybrid garden fork, added compost, planted cherry tomatoes, Big Red tomatoes, Brussel sprouts, peas, Spanish onions and green beans - all quite handily.

["The hybrid fork: Fork from Austria, used handle from Fenelon Falls": photo GAH]

But then came a very wicked gray squirrel to my wee patch and the sprouts disappeared. So did most of the beans - twice.

["At present, the last of my beans": GAH]

In the last two weeks I’ve trapped three squirrels but not the wicked gray. His turn, however, will come. I guarantee it. And in the meantime I’ve planted more beans. (I’ll check a gardening center for Brussel sprouts soon).

Two pieces of information for the faint of heart:

First, I use a humane trap and release the squirrels in a park two miles from my garden. One beat me back home, I think - and I was driving my Civic at the time.

Second, I found a Brunswick stew recipe that includes squirrel meat. Seventy of the little beggars in fact.

The sound of it will seem unusual for Canadians I admit, but early North Americans and present-day Brits would be quite familiar with the taste.

What will become of that wicked gray squirrel? Time will tell.


Brunswick stew now usually contains beef, pork or chicken because meat is so plentiful.

I think, not forever. As we choose more food close to home, squirrel meat will make a comeback.

Do you agree?


Monday, June 29, 2009

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - and I’m the beholder

This afternoon’s weather seemed a bit too risky for a motorcycle ride (threats of rains, too much wind) so instead I applied stain to white cedar destined to become Rietveld chairs.

(A glitch at blogger.com prevents me from loading a photo of the lovely Rietveld crate chairs I’m making; try http://www.treadwaygallery.com/ONLINECATALOGS/Sept2005/salecatalog/images/0879.jpg)

While staining (often a mind-numbing experience, similar to writing comments about spelling on children’s report cards) my mind drifted to what I might do with a piece of mulberry purchased this morning from Phillmore Enterprises, a small lumber yard a few miles from my house.

[I’m a retired teacher. I stand by what I said above about spelling comments. For example, how many times can you write “Johnny’s scores will improve with further practice” before you blurt out the truth, i.e., “Johnny needs to take his books home once in awhile and if I see him flick his erasure at Susie one more time I’m going to ram it up his nose!” Sorry, I digress].

Though I instantly thought the mulberry was an unusual piece of wood and belonged in my shop the cheerful proprietor of the yard said, “It’s just garbage, you know that.”

I looked at the $8 price tag. I let my mind play with a few thoughts. A framed piece of art entitled ‘A Slice of Life’? A few birdhouse faces? One small box for do-dads?

I said, “Will you take $4 for garbage?”

“No. Eight.”

I paid him and loaded it into my friend’s Civic, along with a round piece of soft maple for my lathe and a strip of aromatic cedar for a few art pieces.

The mulberry now hangs on a wall in my workshop. My friend and wife both like my initial idea to leave it alone and simply frame it. They felt it was an unusual object to behold.

I’ll live with it for a few weeks, and see what other ideas pop into my little round head.


Until blogger.com shapes up you’ll just have to imagine a lovely scrap of wood costing 8 bucks.


Saturday, June 27, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: A summer newspaper series made for TV

I need a director and producer, preferably with a TV camera and deep pockets.

Are you out there? Because my weekly column is quickly becoming a summer series about some of our city’s distinct neighbourhoods and I think it would be a big hit on television.

And not because I’m tall dark and handsome and have a winning way.

[I’m more like short, grey, reasonably pleasing to the eye - if you stand several steps back - and have found a way to sidestep responsibility. For example, ask me to write or talk about a certain topic and I’ll reply, tell me what you know. Voila - my role is done.]

No, my series would be a smash hit because as I cycle around the city I’ve found countless areas of interest, all pleasing to the eye, which doesn’t translate as well to radio or print.

Just the other day I saw several backyards in Oxford Park in which I’d love to sit down and so would millions of viewers. Admittedly, not all at the same time, but isn’t that what people want? To sit down and not spend time mending the fence?

I even found one yard with no fence. I loved it. It contained a shaded gazebo and fire pot, and is the perfect place to sit and chat with neighbours and ask questions like, “What kind of plant is that? Oregano?”

Or, “What’s that guy doing cutting his grass in his underwear? Let’s go see.”

Yup, perfect for TV.

But first I need a producer and director with deep pockets.


Have you noticed anything of interest in your neighbourhood recently?


Friday, June 26, 2009

What motivates me to ‘buy no new clothes’ in 2009? Part 2

I was asked recently if The Compact motivated me to buy no new clothes.

My first response:

“I don’t know about The Compact, so I’ll check it out.”


At the same time I also linked to a blog site called The Compact, featuring multiple authors, and read ‘Notes on skipping’ by Rachel Kesel, who appears to be onto something that I could write about in my weekly column. After all, a grocery store is literally around the corner and I could easily do a Q and A about their weekly (or is it daily?) waste. I bet they send more trash out the back door than any other business in this part of town (The Village) and I also bet some of it is very useful still.

As Rachel wrote:

“Our culture of perfection has created a shitload of waste (and weird genetic modifications of food).”


My second response:

“Will I become a skipper, diver or bin hop? Not if my wife has anything to say about it.”

(So, shhhh, let’s keep this to ourselves for the time being).

My third response:

“I’m motivated by some of the same ideas and ideals as those attempting to live by The Compact. I.e., live simply, reduce consumption, think of future generations.”

And to the person who raised the question re my motivation I wrote the following:

“My weekly column takes a 'green angle' for the most part and I feel inclined to try reducing consumption in a variety of ways. Retirement has given me time to carefully assess habitual behaviours that aren't too helpful - as far as future generations and Mother Earth are concerned. Buying less is becoming a new habit. Can I do without? is becoming a more frequently asked question. See, old dogs can learn new tricks.”

So, now you know just a bit more of the answer.


This old dog is motivated by other reasons too, and perhaps a weekly column is in order.

What motivates you to reduce consumption?

PS blogger.com is not functioning correctly and I am not able to provide links, photographs or comments at this time.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

What motivates me to ‘buy no new clothes’ in 2009? Part 1

I wrote about one of my personal goals for 2009 recently, i.e., to buy no new clothes until Jan. 1, 2010.

[For more exciting details go to http://itstrikesmefunny.blogspot.com/2009/06/update-re-no-new-clothes-until-jan-1.html]

I mentioned I have slipped up once, and it won’t happen again.

[For more depressing details go to http://itstrikesmefunny.blogspot.com/2009/06/update-re-no-new-clothes-until-jan-1_23.html]

(The slip was purely accidental. It’s not like I walk around with my goals pinned to my t-shirt. Plus, I act impulsively on occasion. And I suffer brain cramps about once per week. Sorry, I digress).

However, I buy used items once in awhile, whenever I feel flush (see sexy hat in post below), and recently asked readers how they felt about buying used.

Kathleen wrote:

“Are you kidding me? Everything I wear is previously used. Wouldn't have it any other way. Your resolution sounds like torture. But I'm impressed with your resolve.”

“Are you familiar with The Compact? Is this what inspired you?”

Though I wasn’t motivated by The Compact, I checked it out, and it sounds like we’re on the same wave length.

Compact basics include (copied from 

- To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of disposable consumer culture and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step that, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact.
- To reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er).
- To simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

Compacters agreed to follow two principles:

- Not to buy new products of any kind (from stores, web sites, etc.)

- Borrow, barter, or buy used.

I think you’ll find my personal motivations are similar. Stay tuned.


Have you heard of The Compact?

Are you following their ideas or ideals? What’s your motivation?

PS Sorry, blogger.com is acting up and I cannot supply links or respond to comments - again!

Gord H.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hand-me-downs aren’t everyone’s cup of tea

Did you hear the term “hand me down” in your house when you were growing up?

Did your mother occasionally say, “Here, try this on. It doesn’t fit your [insert appropriate relative here, e.g. older brother, sister, cousin Therese, Uncle Louie, Grandpa Jones] anymore.”

My mother said it to me many times and would usually add - to help close the deal - it’s too good to throw out, or, there’s still a lot of wear in it, or, you can’t always have new, Gordie.

And I just got used to ‘used stuff.’

[Sexy, and at home in my workshop: photo GAH]

I share this delightful piece of family history to partly explain why I paid 10 bucks for a used straw hat from Caracas recently, whereas a reader (Silver) said they wouldn’t, but would smile with me or at me while I practice my habit.

I say ‘partly explain’ because there may be other reasons I don’t mind buying hand-me-downs or used.

I mean, the hat looks really sexy on me. And who can afford to fly to Venezuela to buy a straw hat?


I’ll try not to overuse the sexy angle. Some of you have seen me in person. Sexy doesn’t cut it, I know.

Dusty? Cheerful? Has his own teeth? More likely.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Zoom w a View: Easy fishin’ in Fenelon Falls

Last Sunday, coffee and camera in hand, I caught my oldest son David trying to catch a fish.

He said he almost had one. Where have I heard that before?

A small cedar four-plex looks at home on Dave’s cedar railing.

More trips to Fenelon are planned, to help when the twins arrive in September.

My son won’t be fishing then. Enjoy it while you can, son.


I’m not a fisherman. Are you?

I prefer my workshop. Another four-plex is needed.


Update re No new clothes until Jan. 1, 2010 - Part 2

In yesterday’s post I mentioned one personal goal for 2009 - buy no new clothes. Nada.

Here’s a quick update.

I’ve slipped up once in ‘09. Stink.

While at the Home Hardware gardening center in The Village recently I noticed a display of straw hats, recalled I’d been unable to find my old straw hat, checked the price ($21.99) and my wallet ($32.17), and without thinking about my goal, bought the hat.

Only a day or two later did it dawn on me - I had done a terrible thing! And almost on National TV!

What will my readers think? (Oh yeah, I’ll have to tell them. My palms are sweating already. Public humiliation - AHHHH!)

And I’d been doing so well. No new T-shirts (though my supply is thinning out), underwear (my brand wears like iron... which can get uncomfortable at times), pants, sweaters - the whole nine yards.

["Something you don't see everyday - Gord's underwear and T-shirt drawers": photo GAH]

One used pair of Levis and two used hockey sweaters had been my only clothing purchases in 2009 until I bought the hat two weeks ago.

Last Sunday, however, while visiting my son and daughter-in-law in Fenelon Falls, I bought another hat. This time a used one, at a flea-market-slash-antique shop.

A sexy number from Caracas, Venezuela, for $10.

The new one will remain in the closet until the summer of 2010, and I bet I won’t slip up again.


Would you buy a used hat? Do you cringe at the thought?


Monday, June 22, 2009

Zoom w a View: Sexy hat features in next post

Is the sexy hat on this man’s little round head new or used?

["New or used?": photo by the sexy GAH? The jury is still out]

Tune in tomorrow to find out.


Read post below for some context.


Update re No new clothes until Jan. 1, 2010 - Part 1

In late 2008 I wrote in a column that a personal goal for 2009 was to buy no new clothes.

Not a stitch.

You may have wondered why I wear the same shirt 2 or 3 days in a row, and try not to sweat the details. Well, now you know.

As a result of the column, Jake, a regular reader, decided to cut down on clothing purchases and keeps me up-to-date on how he’s doing.

["Don't let the shopping cart rule your life"]

Recently he wrote:

“Hi Gord. Just read how "The Hills" struck you funny (to turn a phrase) and it reminded me to drop you a line about how I'm doing, clothes-purchase-wise.  Please understand, this is NOT a brag, it's just an update.”

“I've given to the GoodWill: 2 long-sleeve flannel shirts, 1 brand-new, never-worn spring jacket, 1 very gently-worn set of coveralls, 1 housecoat, 2 pairs of construction footwear and I also tossed an old t-shirt.”

“To date, I have only bought 1 pair of water moccasins to replace the current pair when they wear out.  I may need to get a pair of winter footwear when the time comes however, but that's basically it.”

I’m proud of the guy. Be assured too, he has given a lot more stuff to the Goodwill than is listed here.

And how am I doing related to the goal?

Stay tuned.


Some people try for a balance, i.e., new clothes in, old clothes out. Others buy way too much and weed out slowly.

What about you?


Friday, June 19, 2009

Zoom w a View: A bit of London - Oxford and Wonderland area

Photographs tell part of the story as I visit neighbourhoods by bicycle in different parts of my home city; my delightful social commentary fill in some gaps too.

A reader (Phil W. - see second post below for details) thinks his neighbourhood is perfect for his lifestyle and he made some good points in its defense. I’ll share my thoughts in next week’s column. First, some pictures.

Below: A street in Phil’s condo complex. Very quiet. But too quiet for me. Would the neighbours complain if I used my table- or chop-saw in the driveway? Could I paint my front door a bright red, unlike all the others?

Behind Phil’s fence is farm land upon which he cross-country skis. Enjoy it now, I say. London has a reputation for building large single-family units on our best land.

A bike path is nearby, linking Phil to many amenities, plus downtown London. If I had my way, I’d sink more money into those bike paths and stop accommodating cars in 1000 different ways.

Too much concrete and tarmac for me, though I have nothing against apartment buildings. They should be spread equally throughout the city, even in ‘exclusive, gated communities’, in order to create more green space, which would be a nice contrast to the tarmac.

Visiting neighbourhoods by bike has been an eye-opener.


What are some pros and cons about your neighbourhood?

Is traffic a nuisance or are you in a quiet zone?


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Prose: backpack canoe: conclusion - ‘North Tea reflections’

Backgrounder: “Three days and nights on North Tea gave birth to countless memories. When our group gets together to talk about past trips the stories spill out of us in handfuls, like beans from a burlap sack.” gaharrison

North Tea reflections

coffee in the morning
has a heightened taste
brought to boil
over an open flame.

after a sound sleep
on a pine needle mattress
cold clean water cuts
short the morning dip.

tarp water is turned aside
by a hastily dug
shallow trench
around my tent.

adult loons
patient and protective
are wise diving instructors
for their eager young.

wooden box crappers
havens for hardy mosquitoes
open to the elements
and passing paddlers.

crows as big as barns
chatter loudly for hours
to pass the time
in the treetops.

chicken noodle soup
four for a dollar
a satisfying noon meal
on a cool rock bench.

fajitas, steaks, salads,
store-bought lasagna
catch jealous eyes
and take the culinary prize.

on warm evenings
we scout for moose we tip canoes
and lanterns left in trees
guide stragglers home.

Catch more prose at Hit Singles by G. Harrison


It Strikes Me Funny: Cycling to a neighbourhood near you?

For the last few weeks my column has been about different neighbourhoods in London (will any compare to Wortley Village? I’ll keep an open mind) - and half the fun is getting to some of them.

For example, my 12-speed rides like a charm.

The fresh air and exercise gets my blood flowing - hopefully in the right direction.

Bike paths through the parks or beside the Thames River are enjoyable to ride.

Sure, some road conditions could kill you. I just missed one pothole the size of a small cottage.

And traffic could kill you at any hour per day.

(Too much horse power in cars and SUVs? Too many drivers on cellphones? Too many cars per square inch? I don’t know, but it’s crazy on many city streets).

I suppose I should say the journey 'can' be half the fun. (Be careful out there).

The other half is trying to see a new neighbourhood through the eyes of a reader.

Recently, Phil W. wrote:

“Hi Gord. We’ve met in The Village and in Boston in 2005. Now let’s get down to business. I am a health conscious, eco-friendly, athletic book worm and my neighbourhood is perfect for my lifestyle. I rarely need my car.”

Phil added several more interesting details, including his address and the words ‘coffee is next door at Angelos’ and at lunch time today I picked my way through traffic and along bike paths to his neck of the woods.

["Though rain threatened, Gord arrived safely for coffee": photo by GAH]

Once I'd poured a cup of Seattle dark roast I sat down and imagined myself as Phil.

More details to follow.


If you live in London, tell me about your neighbourhood. I’ll come visit.

Link to The Londoner for a story about my latest cycling trip to Pond Mills.


Zoom w a View: Canadian and US bridges - the gap narrows

Last Thursday I walked the Nicholson Bridgeway in Chicago, a metal bridge with extravagant wooden railings.

[All photos by GAH]

The rain didn’t spoil my day.

Two days ago I walked a former railway overpass in St. Marys (40 km NE of London, Ontario), now a wooden bridge with metal railings.

The hot sunny day was perfect for a short motorcycle ride.

(I literally flew down several hills and through valleys. My 1994 Virago and I are almost finished the bonding process, and I’m dreaming about a longer trip.

Sorry, I lied.

Two longer trips).

Coincidentally, London will soon be connected with Chicago by air, via a direct 1 hr. 20 min. flight from London Airport.

So, I will be able to bridge the gap more quickly in the future.

Even faster than by Virago, though that was one of the trips I’d been dreaming about.

(Historic Route 66 starts in Chicago, at Michigan and Adams, and the Virago would be the perfect ride).


Bridge the gap. If you haven’t visited Chicago, you must go.

And London and St. Marys aren’t too shabby either.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Prose: backpack canoe, more than a trilogy part 3 - ‘moose at Manitou’

Backgrounder: “While camping near North Tea Lake in Algonquin Park several years ago I saw my first moose. Don tried to shoot it (with his camera) but lost his balance and camera equipment during the process. I wrote about the event and still describe moose as very agile for their size.” gaharrison

moose at Manitou

first lone moose
spotted near a cedar shore
head visible above water
leisurely tearing leaves
from a fallen branch.
the canoes drifted too close
and the moose soon bolted
on long black legs
into safe scrub brush.

second sighting, on Manitou Lake
huge muscular unassuming beasts
perhaps near-sighted
but so alert -
twitching ears caught every sound.
two stood knee deep
in long marsh grass
five canoes, silent, still,
approach cautiously
‘til the spell is broken
we exchange stares
with odd silent creatures.
did they hear us breathe?
only a few agile strides needed -
the two disappeared.


More prose and song lyrics at Hit Singles by G. Harrison


My last moose encounter occured in 2007 while motorcycling on the Trans-Canada highway between Wawa and White River. A lone moose seemed to be the only inhabitant of that lonely stretch of highway.

Have you enjoyed a moose sighting lately? Where?


Paul McCartney promotes ‘meatless Mondays’: Give peas a chance

I've always liked The Beatles. The voice of Paul McCartney is one of the reasons why.

He recently made the news with his latest message - to go meatless on Mondays.

Why eat less meat?

Less methane would be produced.

Less stress on the environment.

Fewer factory farms.

Less consumption in all areas related to basic needs (e.g. food, clothing, shelter) and transportation, communication and recreation would benefit Mother Earth and future generations.

McCartney also points out that we eat to excess and we’d be doing our bodies a favour if we consumed less meat.

He says, “You’re all running down to the gym to try and work it off so just have a meat-free Monday.”

I’ve always liked The Beatles and I like that message too. Maybe we could give beans and peas more room on our plates.

Live small and prosper.


Does another musician you enjoy have a positive message to share re the environment?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Workshop: Deadlines looming, busy days ahead

I’m supposed to be retired.

I should be bicycling along the river during lazy, hazy afternoons, stopping on occasion to sip pina coladas or relax in a friend’s back yard to admire his gardens.

I’d ask him how to keep rabbits away from my next batch of Brussel sprouts.

(See post below for details)

Instead, I think I’ve got five solid days of shed work ahead.

Of course, the work (Rietveld crate chairs, boxes for an ‘old fashioned’ grocery store display area) will pay for my trip to Temagami.

[Near Loon Lodge, Temagami]

I bet I can sip pina coladas in Temagami.

So, this retired guy has his eye on the prize this week.


Are you busy in retirement?

There are pros and cons, aren’t there?

Such as...?


Monday, June 15, 2009

It Strikes Me Funny: My sister has gardening genes. Me? Maybe

In last week’s column I showed a wee bit of frustration when my oldest sister Lannie said she was going to tell her writing club a few things about my gardening skills - or lack thereof.

It’s true, I only learned the difference between a spade and a wheelbarrow recently but I do have a garden and several healthy plants grow there at the moment - though fewer than last week.

[A spade is used to dig graves, maybe edge a garden. A wheelbarrow has a wheel, unlike a spade, and is used to carry things to and fro. I’ll use both very skillfully when I catch the rabbit that ate my Brussel sprouts!]

Lannie’s plants do look healthier than mine but... what are they?

One looks like it’s a fly trap eating a jube jube.


Any idea? Poppies maybe?

(I’m too embarrassed to ask Lannie. She’d tell her writing club on me).


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Zoom w a View: Chicago street scenes Pt 4

The wall of water at Millenium Park, Chicago works wonders in a variety of ways.

I found it fun and fascinating.

I think Chicago is a city with a sense of humour.



Zoom w a View: Chicago street scenes Pt 3

Last Thursday was a rainy day in The Windy City but, wet feet and all, I walked north from the Hilton, on Michigan Ave., to Millenium Park.

It was only a few blocks away and certainly worth the price of admission! (Free).

Though clouds hid the sky, the Cloud Gate reflected interesting images from every angle.

Google ‘images’ of chicago millenium park for a million or more views.

Absolutely amazing. (And also free).


Kathleen, a frequent flyer at my site, mentions her $100 Chicago vacation in an earlier comment.

Can you beat that?


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Zoom w a View: Chicago street scenes Pt 2

Don’t visit any major city without a camera... its history sits on every corner.

Or rides, if you’re in Chicago.

Chicago is one of my favourite US cities, the Black Hawks one of my favourite teams.

[Speaking of the Hawks: While chatting with an employee of the Hilton who sees many famous people walk through his hotel’s front lobby, I shared a story about how I almost knocked Bobby Hull’s head off during a baseball game.

“I was at bat, taking practice swings, and saw Bobby, a childhood idol of mine, sitting in a lawn chair beside my hockey coach.”

“I experienced a major adrenalin rush and put the first pitch over the left field scoreboard, slightly foul, the longest hit of my life. I hit every bit of the second pitch in a straight line over Bobby’s head - and if he hadn’t fallen back in his chair he would have been a goner.”

“After the game he said something to me about my swing when I asked him for his autograph.”]

["I saw one Black Hawk": photos by GAH]

I saw one Black Hawk, but Bobby was no where to be found. He keeps his head down when I come to town.


Have you been to Chicago? Have a favourite memory?


Aliens not allowed on Chicago buses

A friend and I took a whirlwind trip to Chicago this week (from Wednesday morning to Fri. evening) and much excitement ensued.

For example, I was yelled at while crossing the border into the U.S.

"So, you knew about the need to bring a passport but you hand me just your driver's license? Who do you think you are?" demanded the border guard.

["Get off the bus!": photo GAH]

After receiving the verbal spanking I continued the 650 km. trip to one of the most beautiful cities in America, home of my favourite marathons (which I may run again some day - my comeback is underway), great music, art, scenery, food and so much more, along with highly regulated buses.

No space aliens allowed.


I just took a cab when necessary.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Zoom w a View: Pond Mills - close to the water

While visiting Pond Mills yesterday by bicycle I was tempted to cool off in two locations.

The pelican just missed!

Would they mind if I took a dip?

In the past, I jogged around the ponds during long runs.

Now I go by bike. Easier on the knees.


It Strikes Me Funny: I score a shut out at Nova Lisboa, but not Pond Mills

A friend popped over yesterday while I was painting and invited me to Chicago for the next two days.

I couldn’t refuse - Chicago is in my ‘Top Five Cities’ list.

However, I felt time compress quickly. I had much to do before departure time (32 minutes and counting).

I had to see a green grocer about a job - she wants 10 wooden crates in which to display groceries. I gave her a price, she gave me more work for my wee shop.

I then had to bicycle to a far off subdivision, as research for my next column, re ‘what makes a neighbourhood a neighbourhood?’

Using directions provided by a reader I parked my bike at a small plaza near the centre of Pond Mills and surveyed the land.

If I had been extra hungry I would have been out of luck. The buffet was a good price at Nova Lisboa but as I looked through the window I noticed no one was at home... or at restaurant. It’s closed on Tuesdays.

Down the street I stopped to ask a fellow busy washing his car how old the neighbourhood was. Surprisingly, I knew the man. He is the father of one of my youngest son’s close friends.

Because he couldn’t answer my question he asked his neighbour. I knew the man and his wife as well, for Pete’s sake. I taught with the wife in 1974 - 75, the year they bought the model home on that street. So, they knew the precise answer to my question and pointed out a few more highlights in the area.

It was a quick but interesting ride.

I’ll write a draft while sipping coffee on Michigan Ave. in about 6 hours.


Small world, eh?

Bumped into old friends lately?


Prose: backpack canoe, more than a trilogy part 2 - ‘first day out’

Backgrounder: “The first day in the canoes tired me out. I was so happy to reach dry land, set up the tent and eat supper. The bottle of brandy I brought, to mix with my evening tea, relaxed every muscle in my body.” gaharrison

first day out

... continued (please see previous post)

now, tents and tarps
next, collect dry wood
soon, our first fire warms
a weary crew and
lends a snapping orange light
to friendly faces
brandy in their tea.

supper on a Coleman stove
steam and rice and stew
open fire with wire racks
assembled pans, bubbling pots
for lean cuisine and cornish hens.
under yards of canvas
my simple chow, piping hot
in a metal bowl,
is a king’s delight.

[Photo GAH]

after five hours of
push and pull and carry
weary bodies relax
on stumps for chairs
and look at tomorrow’s plan -
take morning dips, tie towel lines
explore coves, sail canoes
write journals and read novels.
easy routines, short naps
and deep sleeps at end of day.



Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gord’s Little Workshop: Adirondack chair from aromatic cedar

Something really exciting happened while I sanded and cut wood yesterday.

Now, when I say exciting, I do mean exciting, but strictly from my point of view.

[If you’re 17 years old and have a hot car, or are eating the best pizza ever or are skiing downhill at breakneck speed right now without a helmet, then my story might sound pretty lame in comparison. It might, but I doubt it.]

After sanding 100 cedar pieces for five Rietveld chairs yesterday, I cut into the scrap lumber my neighbour was going to toss and it turned out to be aromatic cedar.

["Aromatic cedar, I tell you!": photo GAH]

Aromatic cedar, I tell you - saved from a fire or the scrap heap of life to become an Adirondack chair.

And for the rest of my life, every time I sit in it I’ll breathe deeply and say, “Ahhh. You’re a lovely smelling chair.”

Ain’t that exciting?


Can you beat that for excitement?


Prose: backpack canoe, more than a trilogy part 2 - ‘first day out’

Backgrounder: “Somewhere near the middle of North Tea Lake, while sitting in canoes rented from “No Way Out Adventures”, our group of canoes stopped so that weary occupants, myself among them, could take a welcome break. Black licorice sticks never tasted sweeter. My shoulders had never been so sore or hot to the touch. It all seemed worth it an hour later when on dry land.” gaharrison

first day out

breakfast, fresh at “no way out”
equal parts stiff cool breeze
and soft-boiled eggs
the mosquitoes thankfully took a break.
large loads of freight
every item precious
bring anxious smiles as canoes,
sitting much lower in the water now,
jockey heavily at the gate.
the first energetic push,
past lily pads
and long snake grass,
stretches every muscle
through endless twists and turns
to the first portage.

lunches and black licorice
quickly unpacked, are eaten
on a small outcrop of rock
backs are hunched ‘gainst
a cold wet wind.
with white caps to fight
all heads are down
hot spots tear at tired shoulders
from the hard grip on paddles.
but slowly we draw closer
to our island home
wild point of rock and pine.

... to be continued



more prose and lyrics at hit songs by G. Harrison


Monday, June 8, 2009

Would you pay 5 cents for a plastic bag?

I hope the answer is no.

When a cashier tells a customer that plastic grocery bags now cost a nickel, I hope most people will say, “Let me buy a reusable one.”

People might say, “I’ll just put my items in this cardboard box I keep in the trunk.”

Or, “I’ll just carry this item under my arm. It’s a can of deodorant, after all.”

Five cents might seem cheaper at the moment but in the long run it is not.

Coincidentally, I’m happy to report that as I’ve heard cashiers share this news (re the 5 cent cost for plastic) at our local grocery store and at the beer store a few blocks away, no one has complained.

Not one little whine! Not one shot has been fired!


How do you see or handle the plastic bag situation?


Gathering on the Green smells like a hot dog

Next year I'm going to sell hotdogs. I’ll make a fortune.

On Saturday I took my birdhouses on the road to ‘Gathering on the Green’, a neighbourhood event, with music, crafts, tea gardens, great smelling hotdogs and more, held one block from my front door.

Hundreds filled the park - and their faces - and dozens visited my birdhouse table.

What did I learn?

["One boy looks at birdhouses, 300 at hot dogs!": photo GAH]

Some crafts and plants sell well, my birdhouses are more popular than my other projects... but hot dogs for a buck out sell them all.

Next year I’ll sell birdhouses and weenies!

Buy a house and the sauerkraut is free!

Mister, want some mustard with that birdhouse?


Okay, it could get kinda hectic but I’ll work on the details.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

A hockey player asks me, how green is my motorcycle?

It was a good question - from a guy we call Sid on a 50-plus squad.

[Not the real Sid. He’s tied up at the moment, and is too young to play for us anyway. And can you see the real Sid chipping in 12 bucks a week to play with guys who take three days to skate to one end of the rink and back? Didn’t think so].

While two of my teammates and I were chatting about motorcycles before a recent game another fellow said, “Gord, you write about the simple life, going green but drive a car and a motorcycle. How does that help the environment?”

I was ready with an answer because the same question is on my mind every time I start up my bike.

I told him I don't think any vehicles really help the environment.

Then I said, "I also have a 12-speed bicycle, that makes three things, but, in my opinion, I have a fairly limited use for each one."

["A Miele - one of my summer rides": photo GAH]

"The bicycle is for around Wortley Village and a bit beyond."

"The Honda Civic is, for the most part, used for important errands or family trips. After three and a half years it has around 40,000 km. on the odometer." (7,200 miles per year)

"It's essentially my wife’s car because she uses it 5 - 6 days per week. I drive it once per week to the hockey game, not much else."

Then I said (in a blatant attempt to secure more readers), “The last time I drove it more than 10 km. was last week. I drove to Whitehills (a neighbourhood in north-west London) to do research for a column, parked it under a tree, and walked 3 - 4 km. to buy some cherry tomato plants for the garden. In the summer, the motorcycle is my chief ride, and over the last five years I’ve averaged about 5,000 km. per year. All together, I think I drive a fair bit less than others (several guys agreed), and try to save up my travel miles for the motorcycle.”

The fellow who asked the earlier question seemed pretty satisfied I was doing my bit for the planet.

I hope he didn’t mind when I chipped a wrist shot off his helmet during the game.


Hey, I’m kidding about the shot off the head. (It was his knee).

Still kidding!

Are you consciously trying to keep your miles down low?


Friday, June 5, 2009

Coffee and the Art of Motorcycle Bonding

One full week with a new used bike - only two short rides.

I’ve got to do better than that or else my motorcycle and I will never be a team... and we need to be a good team if I want to ride to Temagami for camping or Halifax to fulfill a promise - in style and safety.

But things conspire to keep me home.

There are many woodworking projects, a craft sale on Saturday and frequent poor weather.

As well, grandson Ollie and I get along so well now, I hate to leave him behind.

He visits my workshop almost daily and cried yesterday when he saw me warming up my bike.

“No motorcycle, Papa,” he said. “Stay in shed.”

Fortunately, he settled for a nap and after he snuggled into my side of the bed I disappeared out the back door with coffee money and headed toward one of my favourite nearby towns - St. Marys, or Stonetown.

["St. Marys, or Stonetown": photo GAH]

Over coffee I reflected:

- The bike rides like a charm

- It’s certainly ready for a 2,100 km. trip to Halifax

- Temagami, closer to home, would be an excellent first long ride

- After only a few more short rides - to attune myself to the machine’s heft, sounds and rhythms - I’m pretty sure I’ll be fully comfortable

- Know the machine, stay within its limits and your own

- Adjust the shifter pedal upward, slightly


I’ll let you know when Temagami is a go.

I’ve never been, so anticipation will run high.


Prose: This one takes me a long way back

In an ongoing effort to put all of my song lyrics, poetry and prose in one place, get discovered and make a million dollars (the price of a decent cup of coffee works for me as well) I dragged ‘backpack canoe’ out of the closet.

If it was in three parts I’d call it a trilogy from North Tea Lake, Algonquin Park, northern Ontario, circa 1993.

But it’s in four parts, and it’s old, so I can only call it dusty.

Here’s part one of backpack canoe, entitled ‘anticipation’:

gotta hit the johnny cash
gotta hit the road

with a heavy nylon backpack -
every pocket full
tightly zippered shut
stashing plastic jars
spices, syrup, porridge,
rice, pop-tarts and pasta
hungry-man size only
a five day supply

gotta hit the johnny cash
gotta hit the road

with a twelve foot canoe of cedar -
both ends snugged down
with yellow nylon lines
honda stuffed front and back
pointing north to Sundridge
five hours to Algonquin
adventure at North Tea awaits

money quick at johnny cash
gotta hit the road



two FYIs - years ago, cash machines were called johnny cash machines, and more prose and hit singles can be found at my other blog.



Thursday, June 4, 2009

I’m going to have to become a better multi-tasker

It’s summer time, my motorcycle is calling my name (“Okay, I’m coming”), I have five chairs needing my attention in the shop (“Okay, okay, I’ll be right there”) , a desire to build four more for the backyard, my weekly column is growing legs - and I can’t keep up.

Motorcycling and chairs I can handle. (“Chairs this morning, riding this afternoon. Now be quiet. I’m typing”).

["This is what the five chairs look like now": photo GAH]

For the new legs under my column, however, I may need a secretary.

After writing and bragging about The Village’s positive features (my neighbourhood receives 1,412 thumbs up... and counting) and spotlighting a few interesting features of another part of town, my inbox has been ringing off the hook, so to speak.

I’ve heard from passionate residents from four other parts of town and it looks like a summer series has been born.

But I’m not ready to be a Daddy.

I didn’t expect the new legs. I wanted to ride.

Yeah, yeah - and sand and stain chairs by a June 18th deadline.

["More scrap lumber = chair #6": photo GAH]

Calling all secretaries!


Maybe I can visit new (to me) parts of town on my motorcycle before heading off to the lake.

Any other tips? Be careful - I might quote you on this.