Monday, July 25, 2016

Stepping outside our comfort zone

published in The Chronicle Herald, Nova Scotian section July 25, 2016
Moving 1500 kilometres across the country poses a few challenges. Selling a home, buying a home...sometimes foolishly buying a home and then trying to sell a home. Deciding what to get rid of and what to pack. Sticking your heels in when movers question you, and saying "yes, I really do want to move that eight foot long Snack Bar sign"! No, I'm not making this up. Loading 3 dogs and a man into one vehicle, and 1 cat, many garden plants and a woman into another vehicle. Driving a full day and stopping at a hotel, asking if they take pets, and then guiltily bringing in 3 large dogs and a cat (surely they didn't realize we had 4 animals). Loading everything back up and driving another full day. Arriving at the provincial border and unloading all the animals for the obligatory portrait under the "Welcome to Nova Scotia" sign in bitterly cold gale force winds on a spring day. Wondering if you are an absolutely crazy person, or someone with a great sense of adventure. Finally arriving at your new home, only to discover that there are many more challenges than you considered when writing your personal pros and cons when making your moving decision.

One big challenge when you move far away from family and friends that you have known for half of your life is that you need to create a new social circle for yourself. Settling into a new home that is infamously known for calling newcomers "Come From Aways" can seem a bit daunting at first. Eight years after making our move, we are proof that it can be done. It's not a quick or easy process. You can't wait for it to happen or take it for granted. You need to get active, get involved, and create your new life.

Only one day after the movers delivered our furniture, my husband and I were filling up at a gas station 20 kilometres from our new home. I heard him greet someone with friendly recognition and I wondered just how on earth my husband managed to know someone already. It turned out that it was our new neighbour, who had introduced herself to him while his was parked at the side of the road at the end of our very long driveway waiting for the movers to arrive. This neighbour turned into a good friend over the coming years, and provided us Upper Canadians with some much needed advice in how to adapt to country living in rural Nova Scotia. We were included in family suppers and get togethers. I was entrusted to feed their turkeys and learned not to be afraid of the gentle giants of the bird world. I was also responsible for feeding their geese, and I quickly learned that they were definitely not gentle creatures of the bird world! Oh, how I feared those nasty birds.

this goose did not appreciate my attempts to put food in the feeders
I also met many wonderful people, true blue nosers and many here by choicers like us, by joining a local photography club. There is nothing like a shared interest to create a bond with people. Regular meetings with lots of socializing, as well as outings to surrounding areas followed by a good meal at a local restaurant, created bonds and solidified friendships. Not only do I go on scheduled field trips, but now I often travel on impromptu excursions with friends.
an impromptu trip with a photo club friend found us in Little Harbour
When we moved to Nova Scotia, I kept records of our trials and tribulations and celebrations and successes on a blog. The internet has truly shrunk the world, and that blog helped create many new friendships. Relationships that started online have introduced me to people from Bear River, Pugwash, Halifax, Shelburne, Kingsburg, and more. Some of those introductions have progressed to true and valued friendships. I have gone real estate hunting with a friend I met through my blog, and now visit her in her summer home in Port Mouton. After knowing her for a while, we discovered that we were raised in the same Ontario city and went to the same high school, just a few years apart. It truly is a small world. I have explored new areas, walked fantastic beaches, collected beach glass, discovered new to me ocean creatures, enjoyed meals, blown bubbles, and have enjoyed being silly with some wonderful new friends.
exploring the cobble beach at Second Peninsula Provincial Park with two friends I met through blogging
Moving somewhere new can be very stressful, especially for someone whose life is well established in routine. However, a new environment can be of some benefit as well. It forces us to stretch and tip toe out of our comfort zones. Slowly, but surely, we can challenge ourselves and become involved in making our own lives more fulfilling and that is something good to focus on.
beach treasures

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I've Caught The Bug

This week's article was not published in the South Shore Breaker...apparently they had too much content and my column got dropped...a bit of a kick to the confidence! However, a friend contacted me by email to let me know she enjoyed my bug article in the Bedford paper. That was news to me!  I have included my article below, with all the photos I sent in with it.
published in the Bedford-Sackville Observer - July 20, 2016
Feeling waspish is to readily express anger or irritation. Synonyms are irritable, touchy, testy, snappish, cantankerous, moody, crotchety, crabby, grouchy. My husband is smart enough not to call me any of those things, but waspish probably could be an apt description of me sometimes. Although Im never waspish when I'm busy with my camera.

A while back, I shared a little story about finding an insect wing when I was vacuuming. I took the wing and photographed it, and added some inspirational words. A couple of days ago, I discovered the type of insect the wing came from. 
an obliging wasp poses on our back door
Our cat Myrtle was pretty excited at our back door, so I went to take a look to see what was happening. I thought she might be seeing our resident squirrel at the bird feeder. But no, a wasp on the back door had caught her attention. I decided it called for some camera time, never giving a thought to the fact that I might get stung. Its well known that a camera protects the photographer from all sorts of mishaps. But seriously, some risks are worth taking and I decided that taking pictures of a wasp was worth the risk. 
By now you probably think I am a crazy person. After all, not too many people think its fun to take photographs of bugs. If you want to practice your skills at close up photography, nothing beats a bug. Most insects move quickly, so you will be forced to learn the details of your camera so well that it becomes second nature to change the settings. You will develop patience and learn to anticipate their behaviour so you can set up a good shot. 
quick insects are a challenge - capturing two at the same time is a bonus
Some insects are slow movers, which will present a great opportunity for you to experiment with depth of field. You can practice with your camera to compare having the whole photo in focus, or just parts of the image. Best of all, when you are photographing insects, you learn so many things about nature that you would never know without such close up contact.

Did you know that the eyes of a grasshopper are more than one colour? One of the grasshoppers I photographed had eyes that were a pinkish hue at the top, changing to green in the middle and then yellow at the bottom. If you get up close and personal with a grasshopper, you can see them make all kinds of interesting gestures and they let you get pretty close as long as you move slowly. Grasshoppers can be bad news for farmers, but the symbolism of a grasshopper is a harbinger of good news, and messages of glad tiding.
Blow me a kiss! You can capture some interesting poses with grasshoppers
Did you know that there are spiders that are so tiny that dozens of them would only take up the space of a quarter? Ordinarily, I have a great fear of spiders. Im not sure when or why I developed such an intense dislike for them. I have tried photographing spiders to try to change this feeling, but so far it hasnt worked. However, I did find a batch of baby spiders while out and about in Chester and took a photo with the trusty pocket camera that I try to always have with me. It has a microscopic setting that takes excellent photos with just the press of a button. The camera does all the thinking for me and stacks a series of photos into one image, meaning that pretty much everything is in focus.
itsy bitsy spiders spotted on a post in Chester and captured with a point and shoot camera
I bet there is no one around who knows ticks like I do. Taking macro images of ticks forced me to face my fears and learn their behaviour. Lots of people think ticks fly through the air or hop, but they dont. They climb onto the tips of blades of grass and raise their front legs when they sense motion close by. They will grab on with their arms if you get close enough to brush by them. Would I ever hang a photo of a tick on my wall? Of course not. But it was an interesting exercise and learning experience to photograph them, nonetheless.Of course, the stars of the insect world are bees and butterflies. The best time to photograph them in your garden is when it is cool. They slow down and you can easily capture them in wonderful poses. Bees and butterflies also add life to the flower photos that gardeners so love to take. But flower photography is something we'll focus on another day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Country Living for a City Girl

published in the South Shore Breaker - July 13, 2016
I never thought one of my life experiences would be washing a baby birds behind. But it was, and I did. 

When we moved from Ontario to Nova Scotia eight years ago, we moved to a very secluded property in the country. Our friends from back home often asked us how we were dealing with our lives in a different province, but really our adjustment was not so much living in a different part of Canada but in changing lifestyles from the suburbs to country living.

We thought we were living in the country when we lived in Ontario. We were living on the outskirts of a small town with a population of approximately 3000 people. Our home was on a one and a half acre lot in a subdivision that had paved roads and buried hydro lines. We did deal with nature, or rather our dogs did. We experienced porcupines and skunks many times. When I look back on it now, I know that wasnt real country living and I can't imagine why we ever thought it was.

our guineas went everywhere - even the roof of the house
We moved to a country property in Nova Scotia with a half mile long gravel driveway that ran from a gravel road. We lived on the top of a hill, and anyone that lives in rural Nova Scotia knows that there certainly werent any buried hydro lines. The wind on the hill mostly kept the bugs away but we did have screened in porch that came in handy now and then. We learned all about ticks before our furniture arrived, and that was a crash course we hadnt been anticipating.

We now live in town on one of the busiest streets in Bridgewater, so I guess you can figure out that we never did become truly comfortable with living in the country. 

But I would never trade or take back our seven years in the country because we learned so many things, and had so many experiences that we would have missed.

We picked apples from trees that our neighbours said must have been about 100 years old and I made home made applesauce. I held a hummingbird in my hands after I rescued it from our shed. We rescued countless birds from our wood stove after they fell down the flue. I learned to drive an ATV, and my husband became an expert with a backhoe. We created huge flower and vegetable gardens, and a koi pond that was six feet deep and fifteen feet long. Woodpeckers and grosbeaks showed us how they raise and feed their young. We watched foxes, hawks, eagles, and deer. And we raised guinea fowl.

two batches of guineas just after they were released to free range
We received advice about country living from our neighbours, and one piece of advice was that we needed guinea hens to deal with the ticks. We learned that its easier to raise day old chicks than to buy mature guineas since they tend to stick around more if you raise them from a young age. One of my first experiences was trying to capture the baby birds as they were racing around a barn trying to stay out of my way. Picture a city raised girl who is scared of dirt and spiders down on her hands and knees in a barn trying to catch keets in her hands. That provided a lot of entertainment for a few people, let me tell you. We learned the tricks of keeping the keets under a heat lamp until they got older and stronger. I kept sickly ones in a pouch by my side to keep them warm. And then following another piece of advice about sickly keets, I washed their little bottoms in case they were "stopped up". Washing bird bums made me wonder if the people giving us advice were just having fun with us city folk.

Raising guineas also gave us first hand look at the cycle of life. One day as I headed to the coop, a hawk rose from the ground just a few feet in front of me and took flight. I was overjoyed at this close up experience...until I looked down and saw a half eaten guinea at my feet. We kept the wildlife well nourished over the years. Foxes and hawks enjoyed some fine dining on our behalf.

a mature guinea perched on the railing of the coop
Our seven years in the country had trials and tribulations and enlightenment and growth. How else would I have learned to wrangle a weasel out of our living room in the middle of a cold February night? But well focus on that another day.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Lupin Love

Article published in the South Shore Breaker - July 6, 2016 - Lupin Love
Whether you want to call me a "come from away" or a "here by choice", the fact is that I wasnt born in Nova Scotia. After living here for eight years, I am still a relative newcomer. If you were born here, you take lots of things for granted that I find charming. Whether youre a newcomer, or a tourist, I guarantee that you love the month of June because that means that lupins are blooming. If youve lived here all your life, you may take them for granted or consider them weeds. I just consider them gorgeous.

When we lived in Ontario and vacationed in Cape Breton, I purchased many packets of lupin seeds but I never was able to get them to grow. However, in Ontario they are blessed with ditches filled with orange daylilies...something you dont often see here.

When we moved to an acreage in Nova Scotia, one of my goals was to have our fields filled with wild lupins. I worked for several years and finally got them growing in our garden. Much to my chagrin, after several summers the lupins self seeded all over our gardens and I slaved away trying to get them under control. I wasnt so thrilled about them in the garden after that. Instead of sowing seeds, I was pulling seedlings. Isnt life ironic? Sometimes its best when our prayers go unanswered. I think theres a Garth Brooks song about that.
But I still love to see fields of lupins. Recently, some members of the Bridgewater Photo Club headed out on a field trip over towards the Fundy Shore. Five cars filled with eager photographers headed out on the journey. The car I was in had three other photo club members, lots of camaraderie and laughter. Despite information on the cars GPS and a paper map that told us there was a through road, we came across a "road closed" sign and found ourselves doubling back and covering the same ground. At this point, we were so far behind the others that we became a one car field trip instead of a five car convoy and our outing became more leisurely. We made a few stops, had a great lunch by the shore, and captured some wonderful images. One of the great things about traveling with other photographers is that no one thinks its strange to take pictures of rusty chains, or coiled ropes, or any weird thing that you might find. I did capture all of those things on our trip, but one of my favourites of the guessed it...was a photo of some lupins with the Fundy in the background.

Lupins in Halls Harbour, overlooking the Bay of Fundy
Almost home towards the end of the day, we passed a lupin field that was a photographers dream. I couldnt stop thinking about it so two days later I was up and out the door at 6:30 in the morning, determined to find the field and capture an image. No car filled with laughing friends this time, just me and my coffee and my camera. I was stopped along the way by a rooster and his brood of hens who decided to stand their ground in the middle of the road, changing the joke about "why did the chicken cross the road?" to "why are the chickens standing in the road?" I mused about my past life when morning commutes had me traveling on 6 or 8 lane roads to get to work. Thank goodness those days are over and my biggest problem is facing down some chickens. The field was further away than I remembered but I eventually reached my destination. The next challenge was how to capture the beauty of all those lupins into a one dimensional image. I tried a few things and a few different angles but when I got home my computer showed me that Ill need to keep practicing. I did manage to get the rising sun into a starburst behind some lupins, which I was happy about.
early morning lupins in Maplewood, Lunenburg County
My lupin mission was accomplished, so I toodled down some backroads towards home and stopped at a field in Barss Corner to photograph some cows that were standing near the fence. I approached them slowly and talked to them in a gentle voice so I didnt spook them. It turns out that cows are good listeners. Maybe I should send my husband for some lessons!
contented cows and good listeners!
Back into the car, it occurred to me that this was the second time in less than two weeks that I was traveling the back roads near where we used to live. Could I be missing the country more than I thought? I was feeling thankful that living in Bridgewater meant I could have the best of both worlds....easy access to the shore and beautiful beaches that I love, as well as just a quick trip inland to get my country fix.

Just a day after my solo excursion to the country in search of the lupin field, I was in the car just minutes from home and spotted a field just covered with them. Sometimes the best places for photographs are in your own backyard, so to speak. But thats a focus for another day.