Sunday, April 28, 2013

hot air balloons

For someone who is terrified of open tread stairs and elevators with windows and really does not do well with flying in airplanes, it is odd that there is a part of me that would love to go up in a hot air balloon.

it has been 130 years since the Montgolfier brothers, Jacques and Joseph invented the hot air balloon. the first flight flight contained a goat, duck and chicken on board, when all returned to the ground safely and alive, a manned flight was planned two months later. that one lasted for twenty minutes over Paris. I can barely imagine the reaction of the crowds watching below!

The balloon is made of the envelope, a burner and a basket. Safety has improved over the years, but  the basic components are just the same as when the first balloon rose into the air.

Wicker is used for the basket as it is extremely stable, durable, flexible. It is ideal for balloon baskets, since it is able to withstand the impact of landing, and also absorb some of the shock, keeping the balloon passengers more comfortable.

The rip-stop nylon that the envelope is made from is durable and fireproof, so there's little chance of the the wind tearing it open, nor of the burner flame setting the envelope on fire, unlike early balloons, which were actually quite fragile.

The original burners were little more than an open fire pit in the basket. Most modern burners utilize propane gas, which is stored in the basket in cylinders. A thin pipe carries the propane to the pilot light, and a thick one takes propane to a special high-pressure valve. When the pilot opens this valve, a stream of propane gas is ignited by the pilot flame, heating the air inside the balloon and causing the balloon to ascend.
(info from hot air balloons)

Friday, April 26, 2013


a vacation stop almost halfway between Toronto and Montreal
The sign seems to have remained unchanged on this motel on Highway #2 in Gananoque. The above postcard was sent exactly 55 years before I took this modern day photo. The front office area has been altered and I can't remember if there were cabins (I was concentrating on the sign only). I like the idea that their phone number was 3 digits and a letter (not sure what the J stands for) Checking with TripAdvisor you will see some varied comments with an average 3 star review for this family run motel that is off the beaten track, but still close to the town centre.

Gananoque lies on the St Lawrence River and is known as the Gateway to the Thousand Islands.

the photo shows the eastern gateway with the postcard showing the western. the town is small, less than 3 square miles with a year round population of just over 5,000 that swells a fair bit during the summer tourist season.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

sharing my day with you

Since I was already in Toronto on Friday, I thought I would stop by the Stamp Show that was on last weekend on my way home. Things didn't quite turn out as planned.

I did have a lovely visit with my baby niece with whom I had several staring contests since we hadn't seen each other in a long time. Her days are filled with bouncing in a harness, grabbing things, gnawing on things, dancing with mummy, listening to music and silly talk, eating, staring... getting lessons on how to make a perfect cup of tea (it is never to early to learn the essentials)

When I left, it was a little later than planned. Then I had to find a bank machine which were not as prevalent in that particular area as I thought they might be. Then traffic became heavier than I expected at that hour. And when I finally got to the Exhibition grounds were the show was being held, I discovered the parking was a flat rate of $14. I thought that a bit excessive for the slightly more than an hour I would spend inside. I thought about finding some street parking and walking back, but in the end I decided I would just go find somewhere to have a coffee and something to eat while waiting for the traffic to ease. There was one hour parking on the side streets until 6pm, so I went for a short walk and came back promptly at 5 and moved my car around the block. I wandered up and down Ronscesvalles Ave and and in and out of shops smelling of fresh baking, old books, leather. I found a couple of very cute little vintage and vintage-inspired home decor and accessories shops. They were full of stuff I like. Like this tin box that I can use to stuff my stamps in.

I may be thrifty on the one hour parking, but you know I had to go back the next day, which meant another 40 minute drive, and still paying the $14. But then I stayed for almost four hours which gave me plenty of time to check out the boxes of 10¢ and face value stamps as well as the postcards and the large displays the club members had put together and have (too many) conversations with people about what I collect and how they could be stored and where and when the next shows are (hint: this Friday, in Hamilton!) Every time I worry that this collection is getting out of hand, I have a look at the other people at these shows and realize I have a long way to go.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

maple trees forever

There are many hundreds of stamps of flowers, but for Earth Day, I thought of showing stamps of trees. 
This weekend there are several communities participating in tree plantings. Some of the beneficial uses of having trees are: 

Help manage storm water ♦ Provide shade & cooling for lower energy costs/use ♦  Lower stress in people ♦  Absorb carbon dioxide to clean the air  ♦  Decrease soil erosion to help keep water supplies pure  ♦   Add beauty and an inviting space for young and old to enjoy   Insure biological diversity  ♦  Increase property value  ♦  Provide habitat for songbirds and other wildlife [from RBG website for tree planting festival]

And after searching high and low for my stamps of maple trees, I finally resorted to using the Canada Post archives for photos, then found a complete set at a stamp show I was at today, so I had to buy it. (I love that there are so many stamp and postcard shows in this area!)
These stamps were issued in 1994 at the domestic rate of .43¢ Designed by Dennis Noble, some artistic licence has been made in order to make the trees stand out since most of these maples would not be seen growing in isolation.

The Red Maple is the most common and widespread of the deciduous trees in eastern North America from Northern Ontario/Minnesota to Newfoundland and down to Florida and Texas. It can reach a height of 49' with roots as much as 82' long and everything from its flowers, petioles (the stalk of the leaf that attaches the blade to the stem), twigs and seeds are all red. And, of course, there is that brilliant scarlet red of the autumn leaves. It is mostly an ornamental tree and because it can withstand a wide variety of harsh conditions it is excellent for use in urban settings.

Whereas the red maple is a softwood tree and not best suited for maple syrup or lumber, the Sugar Maple is a hardwood tree native to the northeastern part of North America from Nova Scotia to Southern Ontario down to Georgia and Texas. It can reach heights of well over 80'. It can grow in almost any kind of soil and is also among the most shade tolerant of the large deciduous trees. It is also a very prolific seed producer and also engages in something called hydraulic lift, or redistribution, where the roots draw water from lower moist soil and redistributes it to upper drier soil which benefits not only the tree itself, but the other plants that grow nearby. 
However, the sugar maple is is not salt tolerant and as a result of the increased use of salt as a de-icer on our roads, it is declining in many areas and, especially in urban areas is being displaced by the Norway Maple. 
This tree is an invasive species from eastern and central Europe. It has become a favourite street tree because of its tolerance for poor and compact soil and for pollution. Purists do not like that this tree has become so prevalent partly because nothing will grow beneath its canopy as the roots grow close to the soil surface and starve other plants of moisture. 

Although a stylized [sugar] maple leaf appears on our flag, no maple trees actually grow beyond the rockies, so it is not a truly national tree. This point irks many out in BC and Yukon.

Monday, April 15, 2013


your earworm for the day
cat swag

Sunday, April 14, 2013

more lighthouses

For this week's Sunday Stamps, Canada very conveniently had a lighthouse series of stamps issued in 2007. 
I just wish they hadn't planted the flag on them so prominently. the 'P' means that the stamp is good for the going rate no matter when you use it. in 2007, it was worth 52¢, today it is worth 63¢

here we have the first of the limestone Imperial Towers built on Lake Huron. this one is about 60km south of Southampton with its Chantry Island Lighthouse (previous post)

this red and white striped lighthouse is on Sambro island, Nova Scotia at the entrance to Halifax Harbour. built in 1759 it is the oldest surviving lighthouse in North America.                        

the lighthouse at Cap-des-Rosiers located at the eastern corner of the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec is the tallest lighthouse at 112'

one of the two 1908 range lights at Warren Landing, Manitoba at the northern end of Lake Winnipeg are among the most remote lighthouses
there is an upper and lower range light and  you can tell that this one is the upper by the red vertical stripe

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chantry Island Lighthouse

In anticipation of this week's stamp theme of lighthouses, I thought I would share something about the Chantry Island Lighthouse.

I have hundreds dozens of photos. Every time I see it with the light shining on the white limestone, I have to take more photos. Just in case. One of them will be the perfect shot and then I will stop. But it is located about a mile off the shore at Southampton on Lake Huron.

And it is always windy (at least when I have been there, it is. I have been told that some days the lake is like glass, but I find that hard to believe)

Anyway, I need to practice with my zoom lens

Six of these Imperial Towers were commissioned by the government and built by John Brown between 1855-59.
All are pretty much identical with an 80' conical tower with a small cottage for the keeper
and all are strategically located on Lake Huron. This particular area is home to at least 50 known shipwrecks.
The lens in the lighthouse was a Fresnel, imported from France, this one in the Bruce County Museum
and the first fuel used was sperm whale oil and later colza oil, coal oil, kerosene, acetylene and electricity until the current solar power. No wonder there were so many fires. It was a dangerous job. And you were on your own.

The lighthouse has been operating ever since it was built but it was automated in the 1950s,  and eventually with no caretaker the abandoned buildings fell into disrepair.  But by the late 1990s, a group of local lighthouse enthusiasts (now known as the Southampton Marine Heritage Society, but at the time was Supporters of Chantry Island) worked tirelessly at restoring the house. You can read more here if you are interested.

Now there are tours run by volunteers and you can climb the steep and narrow 115 steps to the top of the tower and also wander through the restored cottage and see it as it might have been furnished in the 1900s. Since the island is also a bird sanctuary you cannot wander freely, but, the noise and smell from the various cormorants, egrets, herons, gulls can be a little overwhelming, even from a distance!

a view of the restored privy
some of the thousands of cormorants
and at left, some egrets

and, far off in the distance....
the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant

Friday, April 12, 2013


I really enjoy getting bird postcards. I dream of being able to take such clear shots of them in all poses. And in some cases of simply seeing them!

Here we have the early arrival spring favourite, the robin. Except this one looks very different from the robins we are used to seeing. The European robin has been knocked out of the thrush family and is now classified as a chat. I had to look that up, and immediately got lost in the taxonomy. Our (American) robins are considered true thrushes.
But the good news in these parts is the Bald Eagle new parents nesting nearby in the Royal Botanical Gardens. There have been sightings of two little white tufts in the nest! These are the first bald eagles to hatch on Lake Ontario in decades and there is great excitement at the arrival of the newcomers. You can read more about the Bald Eagle Project here. The adult pair have been nesting for a few years and have chosen a site that is viewable from the boardwalk. Unfortunately, I have no good photos and haven't seen the babies. The aerial views of mom and pop have been a sight to see, at least!

Friday, April 5, 2013

welcome spring

This is actually a Year of the Snake card from Taiwan, but postcrosser Yen says that the second symbol 春 means 'spring' and a new year start, and together it reads 'welcome spring'. The lunar new year is also known as the spring festival. 

this second card comes from Harbin, China where "Spring is arriving" says Dandan.

I like the acrobatic little bird on this blossom branch
Spring is making a valiant effort here as well, though while staying at Lake Huron, my brief holiday started with getting a sunburn on Saturday and moved on to scraping snow off the car on Tuesday with biting winds in between. By the time I had to go home, it was sunny and warm and I didn't want to leave...