Wet Lines

It’s that time of year again where lakes and rivers have iced over, and everyone goes into their winter mode. For some people that means getting out the sled, for some it means heading south, and for others it means curling up and waiting for the weather to get warmer. Ottawa is a very active city, and like a lot of people I choose to get outside as much as I can, even in the bitter cold.

Over the past month I’ve been out fishing a few local lakes, and rivers. I’ve slowly felt the growth of the ice, some holes I’ve fished have had over 20 inches of ice. It makes me think that I need to get a gas powered auger for next year, as 20 inches of ice is a lot to punch through by hand.

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It always amazes me how much weight the ice can hold, and just how clear it can be too. Looking straight down at your feet you can see the pressure cracks, and follow them all the way through the ice slab. I’ve yet to land anything yet, so I did take a bit of a vacation to some warmer areas, where I figured the fish would be biting.

It’s amazing that with modern air travel I can go from fishing a frozen lake, to surf fishing on a beach, and back again within a week. 1,500 miles apart I was able to get my line wet for two completely different types of water. The locals were avoiding the beaches, due to an absolutely frigid to them 8C over night low, and a brisk east wind. I made good use of the empty beaches, and pulled out more than a few fish. This Blue Fish was the best I hooked all trip.

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Going to have to go back to basics up here, and aim for location, location, location. Can’t catch the fish if I can’t find them, and I seem to be picking all the wrong spots this winter though. I guess it is a lot of pressure to put on one little hole that I drill in the ice, that gas auger keeps sounding better, and better. Going to have to cover more ground in the coming weeks, and try some new lakes. Maybe that Super Blue Moon will give me a hand, eh? Can’t beat the views from the ice though.

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Get Your 8 Hours a Day

It’s that time of year in Ottawa again, where the nights are long, and the days are short. The sun has barely risen by 8 am, and it is setting again by 4 pm, for a grand total of 8 hours of daylight. It always surprises me that I can keep my peppers alive through the winter, with no artificial lighting. I had surely thought they would have died out long ago, but they somehow persist on such a minimal amount of sunlight.

This time of year as the lakes, and rivers start to freeze over, the air shifts and the humidity dies out. Everything becomes dry, and cold, and my plants need water on a daily basis. The dryer air conditions seem to draw out the flowers of the plants, as everything seems to go into bloom in early December. This is balanced, by the last of September’s flowers being fully mature peppers, ready for picking.

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This Bell pepper had slowly been turning orange over the last few weeks, and was finally ready to eat yesterday. The plant has maintained a nice, deep green hue and has stayed quite healthy, despite not having the best position in my house. I have one south facing window, where I keep the hot pepper varieties, as I expect that they are used to more sunlight than some of the more temperate varieties. The Bell pepper lives by my back door, which faces east, and only gets about 2 hours of direct sunlight a day. Besides this pepper lives a little splash of colour.

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That’s right, there’s snow tires on my truck and I still have two Hibiscus plants! Amazing how life finds a way, and even these tropical plants can stay alive on such little sunlight. I think the plants all see more than me, in my lab at work there’s no windows so I only see the sun for about 10 minutes a day on my drive to work. Aside from that I only get to see the sun on weekends. Its going to be weird in a few months when I have to start getting used to longer days, and take the winter ballast out of my truck.

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Full Steam Ahead

This excessively rainy Ottawa summer has kept me inside a lot more than I would like. I haven’t been able to get out onto the river nearly as much as I wanted. On the bright side, I have only had to water my garden 4 times, and it is absolutely thriving.

My peppers are in love with the humid air, and rain days. After being kept inside all winter, some plants were really struggling, but they have made a magnificent recovery and are heavily laden with peppers.

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Across my three Habanero plants, I counted 22 peppers, and 45 flowers early today. I don’t think I’ve had as good a summer for peppers as this since I’ve started growing them. I think part of the success if due to the nice, large flowers I setup early in the summer to encourage pollinators to frequent the area around my garden. I have a hanging basket of Geraniums, and two large, pink Hibiscus flowers sitting in a pot next to my peppers.

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I figured that if I could get the pollinating insects to show up in late spring/early summer, they would make repeated passes throughout the rest of the summer. With the large amount of peppers that I am seeing on my plants, I think this idea has played out quite well. Even with my peas, where I was limited to a much lower count of plants, I am having exceptional production, with very high production rates. The next major push is to hopefully have as good a turnout with my cucumbers.

Its also about the time of year where the Japanese Beetles are starting to proliferate and are appearing in large numbers. I’m not sure what other insects or animals prey on them, so I’ve had to set out a few traps to try and lure them away from the plants. The traps are scented to encourage the bugs to fly into them, but haven’t made much of an impact yet. I have tried spraying the plants down with soapy water, every few days, at least in the areas of concern.

Similarly I have tried to keep hot sauce, and cayenne pepper dust spread in my garden to discourage animals from eating the plants. Rabbits seemed to love the new pea plants, and were undeterred by the efforts to keep them away. I ultimately had to place a chicken wire fence around the areas of the garden with peas to keep them out.

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Seemingly though, nothing in my neighbourhood likes raspberries aside from me. I anticipated that animals or birds would get into them, and eat a large number of them before I could harvest them. However the berries have been essentially untouched, and I am picking more than I can eat on a daily basis. My freezer has several large bags of berries, and I’m starting to look at what I can make with them. They might be a welcome addition to my hot sauces, adding some sweetness, and a hint of acidity. Though I may take a more traditional route and make some jams with them. Or save them for the winter and make some much needed fruit smoothies to remind me of the summer flavours until the next big batch of berries comes in next summer.

Weekend On The River

Long weekends mean its time to skip town, and head to a place where you can sit by the water and relax. I made my annual Canada Day weekend trip down to the St. Clair river to unwind, and celebrate. It’s unlike any other body of water in the country where you can see gigantic freighters sail through the brilliant blue water, while letting the current carry you down the river.

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We even got treated to seeing a freighter turn around, and pull into the gravel docks just up river. The ship came to a full stop heading south down the river, and turned hard around the channel marking, to end up facing north and pulling into the dock. It’s a rare maneuver to see such a large vessel make in a river, completely unassisted by tugs and under their own power.

To make the weekend more interesting I had went out and gotten my own version of Toronto’s 50 ft inflatable duck. As a bonus, you could actually float on mine instead of just looking at it. It was surprisingly stable, even with the 2-3 ft swells that came from the wake of the large ships that passed along the river. The only downside was that it was very easy to fall asleep on, with the gentle rocking motion of the waves i did take quite a few naps out on the river.

The weekend was made extremely eventful by a brief, but powerful storm on Saturday afternoon. It rapidly cut across the river, and shook the house with wind, and rain. Visibility plummeted to less than 30ft, and we could not even see the river from the house. Tree branches came crashing down, but no damage was sustained to the house. in town nearby roads were closed due to large willows being knocked down. Here’s a photo of the storm as it approached, we stayed out on the deck waiting until rain looked inevitable, not wanting to waste any time this weekend indoors.

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Luckily the ties on our inflatable toys held, and nothing was lost to the storm. We did have to take a small walk to find a slice of pizza, but that was the the only minor casualty this weekend.

It’s always worth the long drive to spend time with family, and I will happily make the trek again at least two more times this summer. Nothing beats this river, and being able to relax all weekend long, without the constant noise of the city.

 

Brief Visit

As Saturday is July 1st, Canada’s 150th Birthday there has been a lot of buzz around Ottawa. Streets are being closed, decorations are going up, lines at the beer store are longer, and the skies are full of interesting aircraft that have come to visit town.

A part of every Canada Day Celebration on Parliament Hill is a pass from some of our military aircraft demo teams. Tens of thousands of people on the Hill crane their necks skyward, as jets, helicopters and cargo planes streak by  for the public below. This year the CH 148 Cyclone helicopter will be partaking in the festivities. It is destined to replace the legacy CH 124 Sea King helicopter.

For the past two years I have been working on designing, and assembling the training devices and simulators used to train the crews that will transition from operating the CH 124 to operating the CH 148. As the helicopter is in town for Canada Day, we were lucky enough to have it visit at work!

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There is quite a lot of room behind our office and the next property, so the helicopter was safely able to land and shut down on our lawn. Afterwards we were able to take tours, and speak with the crew. It was refreshing to hear their experiences with the aircraft, and to see the results of our work. Knowing that all the long hours, time stuck in the lab, it was great to get to see the bird we have been working on up close and personal. Even if the soaking rain made me have to change back into my gym clothes to finish the day.

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I was thoroughly impressed with the interior construction of the CH148 compared to the CH-53 Super Stallion that I saw down in Florida this past winter. The additional sound proofing and clean construction will go a long ways to improving crew comfort, and improving their working environment compared to older aircraft. The CH148 that visited was a block 1.1, which is in the process of being replaced by Block 2 aircraft, which are outfitted with more internal systems, and exterior weapons pylons. I look forward to seeing them flying around the harbour the next time I visit Halifax for work.

Exploring

I’ve always loved what you can find in a city when you take a different turn. I have a pretty standard route for bike rides which takes me through the arboretum, around Dow’s Lake and along the canal. Today I took a loop through the Experimental Farm as I had never been there despite living in Ottawa for over 8 years. I don’t count driving through it to try and avoid traffic, that’s not really visiting.

It was a perfect sunny day, and I was very impressed with the architectural styling of the various offices, barns and other structures on the farm. I was lucky enough that the dairy cattle were out to pasture so I was able to grab a few photos.

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It’s amazing that you can have a sprawling, functional research farm in the middle of the city. As you can see in the rear of the photo the apartment buildings which are within walking distance of the farm. The Experimental farm functions to improve the success of agriculture in Canada by developing improved plant strains, and conducting research on livestock rearing. I’ll have to make a trip to the Agricultural Museum on the farm to learn more about the work that is done on the farm, You never know what you will discover when you decide to try a new route!