All the mead? Yes, please.

A few years ago Andrew and I went to Traverse City for the first time.  During our weekend in the city I discovered mead.  It was cheery mead and it was one of the best things ever.  Since that trip I’ve been scouting local stores for all the mead varieties and stocking up at Christmas time when they seem to have more options.  I’ve also been telling everyone about the long history of mead making and lots of other random mead facts. Basically I really like mead and think more people should make it.

When Andrew and I were getting ready for our trip to Traverse City a couple of weeks ago I started googling to try to find out where I had the cherry mead years ago.  Googling resulted in me finding the Acoustic Tap Room.  Essentially a meadery –I didn’t know these even existed!  They specialize in making all kinds of mead and their ‘tap room’ has a cozy living room feel. There was live music, board games you could play if you wanted, and communal comfy seating.  We tried a flight of all the mead they had on tap, nine samples which were served in ukuleles. Yes, ukuleles. Basically it was the best thing ever.

Of the nine offerings on tap I think the cheery mead is still my favourite but I also enjoyed their more traditional honey variety and Andrew seemed to enjoy the blueberry mead. We brought a few bottles of the mead back with us and I’m already trying to think of excuses to make another trip to Traverse City.

Mead

Neys Provincial Park

Cross-posted from Historical Reminiscents, Krista’s public history focused blog.  

Following a great trip to Pukaskwa National Park I kept up the natural history and camping adventure by spending a few nights at Neys Provincial Park.  I was struck by the difference in landscape between the two parks despite them being less than an hour away from each other.  Pukaskwa had very hilly, cliff views of Lake Superior and the shoreline was a rugged .  In comparison Ney’s had long open beach shorelines, sand dunes, and forested areas.

Prisoner of War Camp

Star embedded on lawn from POW era.  It is believed that the star was around the flag pole.

Star embedded on lawn from POW era. It is believed that the star was around the flag pole.

Prior to becoming a provincial park the land now encompassed by Neys was used as a Prisoner of War Camp known as Neys 100 during the second world war.  The camp housed high ranking German officers and others and was primarily staffed by veterans from the First World War.  There are bits of this history scattered throughout the present day park — building foundations, bits of embed stone, and other physical remnants are all interpretation points in the Park today.  Additionally the physical landscape was fundamentally changed by the POW camp, they flattened sand dunes and used many of the trees for lumber.  Trees were later replanted by the Boy Scouts but in standard plantation rows, leaving evidence of how the land has changed.

Point Trail

Boats on Prisoners' Point

Boats on Prisoners’ Point

We didn’t do nearly as much hiking at Neys as at Pukaskwa, but I did manage to explore a couple of the trails.  The Point Trail is a short 1 km trail that follows the shore of Lake Superior and ends at a rocky outcrop known as Prisoners’ Point.  The trail then connects to the Under the Volcano Trail that explores the shoreline stretching from the Point.  I explored a bit of this trail as well.  The trail was a relatively easy walk, albeit a bit wet when I walked it and it was well worth the puddle jumping to reach the views of the lake at the end.  There was a few interpretive signs but they were relatively sparse.  I did enjoy the one that talked about the remains of old boats located on the point– the boats were left over from the Prisoner of War camp era and the logging days of the region.

Dune Trail

This easy loop hike included an interpretive handout that visitors could take with them on the walk.  The handout included numbers which matched specific points on the trail and provided interpretive details about that area.  The handout included a bit of information about the role of the POW camp on the landscape but primarily focused on flowers, the dunes, trees, and the impact of local animal life on the landscape.  Unsurprisingly, I liked the fact that there was a physical thing to hold during the walk and that the interpretation was a bit more developed on this trail.

Visitors’ Centre

Beach at Neys Provincial Park

Beach at Neys Provincial Park

The Visitors’ Centre was only open during the last day I was at the park.  Despite this we managed to make a short visit to the Centre and check out some their primary interpretive space.  The displays were fairly standard for a provincial park, a lot of focus on the natural landscape with most material geared at families and including a number of touch and feel stations focused on children.  There was also a substantial section dedicated to the history of Neys 100 which included a model which demonstrated what the POW camp would have looked like.  The staff at the Centre were very friendly and seemed to know a lot about the history of the Park and were happy to answer questions about the way the landscape had changed.

 

Pukaskwa National Park

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Cross-posted from Historical Reminiscents, Krista’s public history focused blog.  

Recently I visited Pukaskwa National Park, the only wilderness national Park in Ontario.  The Park features a small campground and 1878 square km of wonderful Northern Ontario natural heritage.

I had a wonderful time camping, exploring, and learning about the landscape at Pukaskwa.  We were there prior to the official start of their interpretation season (July and August) but still managed to take in some activities and many of their trails have great interpretive signage that can be used without a guide.

Anishinaabe Camp Construction

The first morning at Pukaskwa we joined in a walk to the Anishinaabe Camp that was currently under construction.  We were the only ones to participate in the walk that morning but it was worth the half hour to talk with the people building an interpretive space based on traditional knowledge. Our guide was from Pic River First Nation and works as at the park as a cultural interpreter and programmer and the builders were a combination of local and visiting people with knowledge of traditional structures.  As an added bonus our guide took us into the Visitor Centre despite it not being officially open for the season so we could take a look at some of their other programming spaces and some of the other birch bark items that were made at the Park.  I loved that the park integrates traditional knowledge keepers into interpretive programming.

Beach Trail

20160625_085744Pukaskwa has a number of short hikes that can all be completed in a hour or two from the campground.  This was perfect for us given that we were traveling with a small child.  The first hike we did was the “Beach Trail” which visits driftwood filled beaches in three different areas of shoreline – Horseshoe Bay, middle beach, and north beach.  The views of Lake Superior and the huge amounts of driftwood were amazing to look at.  This trail was a fairly easy hike though there were a few spots that could have used better signage and required some hunting to pick up the trail again. In addition to the natural beauty Horseshoe Bay also featured an easel which explored the Group of Seven’s paintings inspired by the landscape contained in Pukaskwa.  I loved this integration of history, culture, and natural heritage.

Bimose Kinoomagewnan

Bimose Kinoomagewnan signage at start of trail.

Bimose Kinoomagewnan signage at start of trail.

The second trail we explored was the Bimose Kinoomagewnan trail or the “Walk of Teachings”.  This trail may have been my favourite of the many hikes we did at Pukaskwa.  It didn’t have Lake Superior views but the views around Halfway Lake and the interpretive signage focusing on the Seven Grandfather Teachings was extremely well done.

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Wisdom teaching signage.

Each teaching had a sign placed at scenic points on the trail and the signage contained stories of Elders’ experiences in the park, their thoughts on the teachings, and their memories of the land.  Each of these written experiences was paired with artwork by local youth.  The signage was in three languages (English, French, Ojibway) and extremely well done and added to the trail significantly.  On the natural heritage side of things I loved the variety of this trail which includes forested land, huge rock faces, hills, a beaver lodge, and fantastic views.

Southern Headland Trail

Red Chairs as part of the "Share the Chair" Parks Canada program.

Red Chairs as part of the “Share the Chair” Parks Canada program.

This was probably the most popular trail we explored – at least judging by the number of people we saw exploring the views.  On many of the other hikes we didn’t see anyone else.  The Southern Headland trail has breath taking Lake Superior views and overlooks Hattie Cove, Pulpwood Harbour, and Horseshoe Bay.

This walk provides visitors with glimpses of the power of Superior and there is some signage talking about the impact the lake has on the landscape and flora/fauna in the region.  This trail also featured the “red chair experience” a Parks Canada national initiative which places red Muskoka style chairs at places with breathtaking views and spots which highlight some of the best spots in national parks.  I love the idea of making destination points within parks that are points of connection, shared experience, and social media opportunities.

Manito Miikana

Outlook over Lake Superior on Manito Miikana

Outlooking Lake Superior on Manito Miikana

Also known as “the Spirit Trail”, Manito Miikana is a predominately forested trail leading to two viewing platforms with panoramic views of Lake Superior.  This was by far the most difficult trail we hiked, it has a lot of changing elevations, a ton of tree roots, uneven ground, and it was very wet the day we walked it.  The views were similar to that of the Southern Headland Trail but overlooked different portions of the lake and also allowed for a look at the Pic River Dunes in the distance.  It wasn’t a bad hike and we probably would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t rained so much prior to our walk.

Overall

I really enjoyed Pukaskwa National Park, exploring the natural history and learning a bit more about the landscape of the North Shore.  I was also pleasantly surprised by a lot of the interpretation programming and signage in the park.  The interpretation I engaged with was really well done and the Park has made an effort to engage local Indigenous communities in programming and include traditional knowledge in their signage.

Sawdust City Brewing Co: Lone Pine IPA

Located in Gravenhurst, Ontario Sawdust City Brewing is a relatively new craft brewery that was launched in 2013.  They have five core brands and brew the occasional sessions.  I tried their Lone Pine IPA a few years ago but had mostly forgotten how it tasted other than it was a hoppy IPA. I also think the Lone Pine is the only beer from Sawdust City Brewing that I’ve seen at an LCBO – granted the local LCBO is often pretty sparse in terms of craft beer.  I loved the design of the can, the stark lone pine is an iconic Canadian image that they’ve made into a simple but visually appealing label design.

The name of the beer is well chosen as it has a distinctly pine smell.  There’s a bit of a citrus hop smell buried under the pine but it’s minimal. In terms of taste it was an interesting blend of pine, hops, and a citrus (maybe grapefruit?) taste.  It was relatively dry with lots of hops.  It’s definitely a hop forward beer but manages to avoid being too bitter.  I tried this beer while camping and it was a great beer to have in the evening after a hot day of hiking. Refreshing and a tad sweet.

Watching: Doctor Who TV Movie

DW8This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Doctor Who TV movie.  I some how managed to convince Andrew to sit down and watch it with me – partially because it was shot in Vancouver and partially because he seems like to bad movies.  There was a lot of laughter, disbelief, and amusement as we watched the movie together.  Andrew also remarked on how American it felt, very unlike any of the other Doctor Who he had watched.  Though Andrew didn’t love the movie he didn’t hate it and I’m just glad I got him to watch it with me.

One thing I love about the TV movie and the eighth Doctor more broadly is the range of possibilities that were created by the movie.  Without the TV movie the new series as we know it probably wouldn’t have come to fruition.  I also enjoy the fact that the eighth Doctor’s adventures have been extended through Big Finish, books, and comics.  The TV movie was just one adventure leaving so much space for tangential writing and additional stories to be developed in other mediums.

If you’re looking for a way to dive back into the TV Movie both Radio Free Skaro and Verity! podcasts had great episodes around the time of the airing anniversary. RFS had an interview with Yee Jee Tso about Time and Spaces his photo book publication which compares the Vancouver 1996 movie shooting locations to the Vancouver landscape today.  The same episode of RFS also included a panel Long Island Who recorded panel featuring Paul McGann, Daphne Ashbrook, Matthew Jacobs, and Gary Russell.  Both the interview and panel are well worth a listen.  And if you’re looking for a slightly less serious way to rewatch the TV movie Verity! did a pretty amusing commentary of the movie.

Watching: Torchwood, Small Worlds

Faeries, flashbacks, and Torchwood character development goodness. “Small Worlds” is the first Torchwood episode that begins to explore Captain Jack’s past in any detail.  I’m fascinated by the many lives and intricate personalities that make up Jack so this episode was right in my wheelhouse.  I love the idea of memory being something that rear’s its ugly head and that the longer you live the more memories there are to be triggered by both positive and negative events.  Memories of love, horror, and relationships permeate through this episode and play into overall character development and the storytelling of the episode.

This episode also had a completely different feel to it than it’s predecessors.  Season One of Torchwood is still testing the waters and at times there are drastic changes in style and feel between episodes.  “Small Worlds” revolves around the existence of faeries, an ancient supernatural force that have bled into reality repeatedly over Jack’s timeline.  It’s a far cry from “Cyberwoman”.

The faeries in this episode are definitely dark – they masquerade as cute mythical creatures and trap ‘chosen’ children for eternity in their world.  I loved the bending of traditional folk stories and myth with darker edges that happens in this episode.  The theme of youth and the temporary nature of human existence is also heavily played with on in relation to Jasmine (the chosen child) and in the discussion of Jack’s past.

Barrowman is also excellent in this episode.  His portrayal of Jack’s interaction with Estelle is spot on and we begin to see more depth to Jack’s character.  He can love.  And he can experience anguish and loss.  Jack is viscerally impacted by the choice to let Jasmine be taken and it shows.

 

Beer of the Month: Pepperwood Bistro and Brewery

The final two beer selections from our latest beer of the month delivery were from Pepperwood Bistro and Brewery, located in Burlington, Ontario.  By the looks of things Pepperwood is a fairly standard small scale brew-pub operation (albeit with classier food/eating area) and they routinely make five standard beers, two of which were in this shipment.

One interesting thing we noticed about the Pepperwood beers was that the bottles seemed to be much lighter than the standard beer bottle.  Maybe they were made with thinner glass?

The first Pepperwood brew I tried was their Cream Ale which poured a hazy blonde colour with minimal head.  It had a slightly smell of hops and citrus.  There was a slight malty taste and a hint of bitterness while still being easy drinking.  A good summer weather beer that was a step above generic.

The second Pepperwood selection was their Monkey Brown Ale.  For whatever reason the Monkey Brown Ale’s we’ve tried so far seem to have been over carbonated or something — they poured with far too much head and took a very long time to settle.  That fact alone may have impacted the taste — it was okay but I’m not sure it was representative of how the beer would typically be like.  It poured a dark brown and had a classic nutty taste.  A bit darker than I prefer my nut brown ales typically, but lots of flavour packed in.

Square Foot Garden Year Two

Last year Andrew and I planted a Square Foot Garden for the first time.  We loved how easy it was to plant and how little maintenance it required throughout the growing season.  This year we decided to keep with the square foot gardening and built two additional square foot gardens. We learned a bit from last year about placement of different types of plants and how to organizing climbing plants in the square foot garden.

One of our beds this year wasn’t planted in a grid format. Instead I put tomato plants and flowering kale in the corners of the bed with lettuce in between.  It’s a bit more free flowing, less organized, and I just wanted to try something new.  We also needed to build something new for our pole beans to grow on, the fencing we used for them to climb on last year couldn’t handle their weight and ended up breaking the frame.  Andrew created some poles out of trees and built a teepee style frame that sits over top of the one bed. We also planted a new asparagus bed as the one we planted a couple of years ago wasn’t in an ideal location — it was too close to some of our rhubarb plants and to where Andrew piles snow in the winter.  Changes and hopefully improvements.

Little Miss also helped plant the garden this year.  She loved copying me by poking holes in the dirt with her fingers.  Andrew and Little Miss were also responsible for planting all of the sunflowers, she seemed to like dropping the seeds into the holes. Bring on summer and fresh veggies!

Oslicken Acres Garden, June 2016.

Oslicken Acres Garden, June 2016.

Watching: Torchwood, Cyberwoman

So episode three in Torchwood had me extremely excited about the possibilities of the series and the potential depth of future episodes.  Episode four, “Cyberwomen”, kind of threw all of that under the bus.   The basic premise of the episode is the Ianto Jones is keeping his girlfriend, a half-converted Cyberman in the basement of the Hub.  Enter poor costuming choices and a bit of cheese and you get a cringe worthy episode.

I like idea of integrating bits of well known Doctor Who references into Torchwood and using the same villains/aliens is an easy way to do that.  This episode has many nods to Doctor Who and the broader SF/F genre.  These nods are ultimately taken too far and fall a bit flat.

I did like the emotional challenge Ianto is faced with – loving the person inside the Cyberman and realizing that the person he loves has become a mass murdering machine.  He seems to genuinely love Lisa and doesn’t want to believe she is gone, despite what Jack and the others tell him.  Four episodes into the series and this is our first real glimpse at Ianto below the surface.  And what we see isn’t that inspiring – he’s reckless, lying, and can’t make the hard decision he needs to. Jack gives a whole lot of tough love to Ianto this episode and we see Jack in the hardass leadership role that rears its head occasionally.  His line “If she’s alive, you execute her.  You execute her or I’ll execute you both!” sums up his position on the whole situation.

I didn’t hate this episode but it definitely wasn’t what I would call good.  It had  a bad tv movie feel to it and there were a lot of poor choices in terms of pacing and presentation of the ‘cyberwoman’.  I think different costuming choices and a less sexualized outfit would have gone a long way in making this far more watchable.  This is the only time Torchwood used an established monster from the Doctor Who universe.  It seems like they realized it didn’t work.  Torchwood is something different and it works best when it treats itself that way – one off references to the Doctor and bit of tech from the Doctor Who universe work but attempting to reinvent classics is hard and perhaps best left alone.

Love Is Love

loveMany of us have become desensitized to the mass shootings in North America.  They keep happening.  But they are at the edge of our awareness – we hear about them, think they are horrible, and move on with our lives.  We might change our facebook profile picture or avatar but we don’t really engage with the issues behind the shootings.

The Orlando shooting broke my heart.  I couldn’t hold in the tears and had to disengage from social media as an act of self-care.  Every tweet I read about the shooting, about LGBTQ people feeling unsafe, and about living with fear just pricked away at my insides. All I could think about was the hate that causes this type of action and the wish that we lived in a world that was more open, more accepting, and just a nicer place. We all deserve better and need to treat each other with respect. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and grief of those directly impacted by the shooting.

I also thought a lot about my privilege and the need to speak up. I’m queer. But at first glance I pass – my partner is male, we have a daughter together and to most outsiders we probably look like we are both hetero. I’m not.  But it’s often easier to just let people think I am.

I’ve felt unsafe speaking my truth, I’ve felt afraid to be who I am, and I often don’t talk about that part of my life.  I’ve had my identity denied, my choices questioned, and been told it’s just a phase.  It’s not. It’s who I am. I’m a private person to begin with but often part of my reluctance to share has to do with fear. But I’m stable in my life and need to speak up more.

We still desperately need safe spaces. I worry about LGBTQ youth who don’t have support networks, who need a community to belong to, and who hear whispered words of hate. We still need Pride.  We still need advocacy. Coming out is still a challenge…and you rarely do it just once, it happens over and over again when you meet new people and are in new situations.  We need to love our queer children and teach our straight children to be allies. We need to talk about all types of relationships, gender identities, and sexuality.

Love is love.

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