still life of an active life.

I was inspired to create this post when our kitchen table was at its messiest. Everything in our living space has a home, and some things take a couple of days to make it back once taken out depending on the level of busy-ness (and my energy levels). Case and point in the photo below. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the everyday happenings of our family!

still life of an active life

So here’s the deal:

The beeswax candle that’s lit at every meal and the matches to light it.

The jar of homemade sauerkraut and the tart pan that held a supper of rustic potato tart with a herbed sourdough crust.

The cell phone with a cracked face because well, my husband works in construction.

The book of Stories of Wales that I picked up from Goodwill on Tuesday and finished on Thursday while out backpacking with the boy. I like to read books the boy could read too, if he were interested.

The two maps of Algonquin, one for canoeing and one for hiking (with more visible contour lines). The canoe map because we’re always planning a trip and the backpacking one because Addison and I just completed a 3 day, 45 km trek together.

The bug jar because we live in the country and there’s always an earwig or hornet or cricket or spider or ??? to be let out of the house.

The wine, because every meal tastes better for a sip of wine. We even have a collapsible bag we use to take a bottle out canoeing or hiking with us.

The placemats are special ones; they came back from Brazil with us in December 2012 after our month there as a family.

And there’s always a bill or two waiting to be paid.

Because we drive south for violin lessons on Tuesdays, a parcel went back to the post office hence the pick-up slip. When I’m home Trevor delivers the bulky stuff to the door and we chat for a while.

After hauling around a bulky computer (that cracked) for 3.5 months in Europe the MacBook is a favourite travel tool when we take tech with us.

Any magazine worth reading has articles on health, travel, hiking/canoeing, or homesteading. Kevin’s now dreaming of the West Coast Trail thanks to this magazine.

In other news, the garden’s flourishing now that the grasshoppers have eaten their fill and the ladybugs are moving in to eat the aphids. It’s going to be a short season so here’s hoping for a later frost than last year. Maybe I’ll post a photo or two next week. This week Kevin flies out west and a friend comes to visit so the pressure’s on to finish painting the boy’s room before Wednesday. When he returns we’ll have a better idea of what the fall might look like, and what a feasible fall trip might be, and then we can start planning in earnest.

But I will say there’s a hankering for a Pukaskwa hike happening around here.

around the Gulf of St Lawrence in 7000 kilometres

Our first stop was Quebec City. We spent my birthday exploring the old town.

Our first stop was Quebec City where we spent my birthday exploring the old town.

I have a similar picture of Addison taken in the same spot 6 years ago. He was a little smaller then.

I have a similar picture of Addison taken in the same spot 6 years ago. He was a little smaller then.

From Quebec we headed east up the St Lawrence River to Baie Comeau where we turned north toward Labrador. Along the way we crossed the Saguenay River by ferry and got to see our first belugas in the wild.

From Quebec we headed east up the St Lawrence River to Baie Comeau; we turned north there towards Labrador. Along the St Lawrence we crossed the Saguenay River by ferry and got to see our first belugas in the wild.

Northern Quebec is a vast area of wilderness broken only occasionally by industry. One of the largest dams in the world is along this highway and at the Labrador border they're literally taking a mountain apart for its ore.

Northern Quebec is a vast area of wilderness broken only occasionally by industry. One of the largest dams in the world is along this highway and at the Labrador border they’re literally taking apart a mountain for its ore.

Northern Quebec and Labrador have the most beautiful rivers I've ever seen. I can only imagine that they get more and more gorgeous the farther north one goes.

Northern Quebec and Labrador have the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever seen. I can only imagine that they get more and more gorgeous the farther north one goes.

Gagnon was a company town until the houses were dismantled and used elsewhere. The sewers still run under the road and sidewalks still line the highway.

Gagnon, QC was a company town until the houses were dismantled and used elsewhere. The sewers still run under the road and sidewalks still line the highway.

Our home away from home. Addison's too big to share it now so in situations where we couldn't erect his small tent he sprawled out across the back seat of the Jeep.

Our home away from home was our trusty Maggiolina. Addison’s too big to share it now so in situations where we couldn’t erect his small tent he sprawled out across the back seat of the Jeep. That was the plus side of limiting our gear. The down side was that we didn’t get much outside time because we weren’t prepared for the cold/wet conditions we encountered.

At 6 am on the 14th we crossed into Labrador. By 9 pm we were on the other side and camped with (I'm not kidding you) hundreds upon hundreds of blackflies. I still have holes from their bites.

At 6 am on the 14th we crossed into Labrador. By 9 pm we were on the other side and camped with (I’m not kidding you) hundreds upon hundreds of blackflies. I still have holes from their bites.

The saying that there are only two season in Canada-- roadwork and winter-- is 100% true in Labrador.

The saying that there are only two seasons in Canada– roadwork and winter– is 100% true in Labrador.

We met with icebergs and minke whales at Battle Harbour. Here Addison is tinkering with his new road tripping instrument, a Merlin.

We met with icebergs and minke whales at Battle Harbour on the Labrador coast. Here Addison is tinkering with his new road tripping instrument, a Merlin.

At L'Anse Aux Meadows viking settlement on Newfoundland's northern peninsula we ran into a family we know from London Ontario. The world isn't so large as we might think.

At L’Anse Aux Meadows viking settlement on Newfoundland’s northern peninsula we ran into a family we know from London Ontario. The world isn’t so large as we might think.

The southern community of Port aux Basques was our jumping off point to the mainland. One of our favourite trip moments came when during our drive down island we stopped to check out the Captain Cook Historic Site (he learned the art of surveying over several years in Newfoundland). The weather had been blustery and cold for days and up above Corner Brook we found the lee of a hill and picnicked and sipped espresso and the boy plucked his Merlin.

The southern community of Port aux Basques, NL was our jumping off point to mainland Canada. One of our favourite trip moments came when during our drive down island we stopped to check out the Captain Cook Historic Site (he learned the art of surveying over several years in Newfoundland). The weather had been blustery and cold for days and up above Corner Brook we found the lee of a hill and picnicked and sipped espresso and the boy plucked his Merlin.

Newfoundland wins hands down for provincial  campgrounds. The staff are the best, the sites are excellent and the washrooms are always spotless.

Newfoundland wins hands down for provincial campgrounds. The staff are the best, the sites are excellent and the washrooms & outhouses are always spotless.

While driving the Cabot Trail we veered off to find the spot where Cabot landed.

While driving the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia we veered off to find the spot where Cabot landed.

At River Denys, along a gravel road more used by ATV's and snowmobiles than cars, we found an abandoned settlement. Some Scottish families made a home here after they were dispatched from their homeland by ruthless lairds. It was a piece of history that was new to me.

At River Denys in Cape Breton, along a gravel road more used by ATV’s and snowmobiles than cars, we found an abandoned settlement. Some Scottish families made a home here after they were dispatched from their homeland by ruthless lairds. It was a piece of history that was new to me.

Part way through our trip we decided to include Prince Edward Island in our circuit. Now Kevin's been to all the provinces.

Part way through our trip we decided to include Prince Edward Island in our circuit. Now Kevin’s been to all the provinces.

We drove off PEI on the Confederation bridge and checked out Fort Beausejour/Fort Cumberland before pointing the jeep west towards home. The fort became obsolete and dropped out of use once the British decidedly defeated the French at Quebec in 1759.

We drove off PEI on the Confederation bridge and checked out Fort Beausejour/Fort Cumberland, NB before pointing the Jeep west towards home. The fort became obsolete and dropped out of use once the British decidedly defeated the French at Quebec in 1759.

Hours on the road with nothing but books, a musical instrument and pens and paper left the boy with no choice but to be creative. He drew his own coat of arms on the last day.

Hours on the road with nothing but books, a musical instrument and pens and paper left the boy with no choice but to be creative. He drew his own coat of arms on the last day.

We made it home at 12:30 Saturday morning after 18 hours on the road. After sleeping in and feasting on pancakes we kept the vacation going with a hike in Algonquin. It somehow seemed like a fitting end to our less-than stellar- weatherwise-roadtrip when we got caught in a downpour with thunder crashing literally overhead.

We made it home at 12:30 Saturday morning after 18 hours on the road. After sleeping in and feasting on pancakes we kept the vacation going with a hike in Algonquin. It somehow seemed like a fitting end to our less-than-stellar- weatherwise road trip when we got caught in a downpour with thunder crashing over our heads.

journeying.

Since I last posted we have travelled thousands of miles by air to the west coast, done a handful of 300k return trips south for violin-related events and paddled a few more by canoe through Algonquin. And summer’s just getting started.

We passed through some new-to-us habitat between MacIntosh and Ink Lakes; it was a world unto its own.

We passed through some new-to-us habitat between McIntosh and Ink Lakes; it was a world unto its own.

This past week we spent 5 days in Algonquin and only covered 6 km more than an earlier trip Kevin and I did over two days in May. It was a lazy 70 km trip with time enough for Addison’s new favourite pass time– fishing. We learnt something about that; don’t let him put the line in the water unless we want a fish.

Step 1: Cast. Step 2: Pull fish out of the water.

Step 1: Cast. Step 2: Pull fish out of the water.

The first time he cast was at lunchtime on day 2 and within minutes he had a 4 lb bass on the line (which then had to be portaged over rough terrain for 3 km before we could cook and eat it). On day 3 we got smart and only let him cast when we were on the lake we were going to be camping on. Good thing too. He had a beautiful brook trout on his line in seconds.

Addison gutted this one without much help and (joyously) discovered it was a female. The cooking fell to me.

Addison gutted this one without much help and (joyously) discovered it was a female. The cooking fell to me.

We passed through some very wild territory on this trip, as in losing-the-trail-at-times wild. As in, the-portage-doesn’t-turn-that-way-on-the-map wild. One section in particular showed a 1400 meter portage as a straight-ish line when it turned out to be anything but. Kevin and I spent 20 minutes scouting and scratching our heads before we decided to just go for it and backtrack if need be. The updated online version of the map shows the twists between West Harry Lake and Pond but that didn’t help us out there.

Day 1: Magnetawan, Ralph Bice, Petawawa, Timberwolf. Day 2: MacIntosh, Ink, Tom Thomson, Potter Creek to Rainbow. Day 3: South Snowbird, Susan, and West Harry. Day 4: Through Floss, Clara, and McCraney into Rain. Day 5: Casey, Daisy, Hambone and out.

Day 1: Magnetawan, Ralph Bice, Petawawa, Timberwolf. Day 2: McIntosh, Ink, Tom Thomson, Potter Creek to Rainbow. Day 3: South Snowbird, Susan, and West Harry. Day 4: Through Floss, Clara, and McCraney into Rain. Day 5: Casey, Daisy, Hambone and out.

Some put-ins are easier than others.

Some put-ins are easier than others.

Next up for us is more travelling– a road trip to the east coast of Canada through Labrador and Newfoundland and Cape Breton.

the end of school.

Today is the last day of Grade 6 for the smallest of us.

The Waldorf curriculum that I lead him through is very experiential and makes a point to combine all aspects of learning into a whole. Science has many artistic components, and art has many mathematical ones. Throughout the year, the first two hours of the day are devoted to a specific subject which rotates regularly; six weeks spent studying Ancient Rome in depth might lead on to a three-week intensive in Geometry, for example. In that time the boy creates something called a main lesson book, which is really like his own personal text book. Through listening, reviewing and creating, the topics we cover sink deep and become a part of him.

Addison has created some truly extraordinary work this year, regularly exceeding my expectations. I went through the same curriculum and my 8th grade work mirrors his. Needless to say I haven’t kept much of my work; it’s just too embarrassing.

I wanted to create a gallery here because otherwise all that he’s created ends up shoved in a cupboard and forgotten about. It was difficult to capture the life in the following pages, but the gist is there.

Pythagoras' Theory proven. Phi really does equal 1.618.

Pythagoras’ Theory proven. Phi really does equal 1.618.

We ended our studies of Astronomy this year with Kepler. Next year we'll get to Galileo and more detail.

We ended our studies of Astronomy this year with Kepler. Next year we’ll get to Galileo and more detail.

History in Grade 6 covers Ancient Rome through the Middle Ages. Next year we'll cover the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery.

History in Grade 6 covered Ancient Rome through the Middle Ages. Next year we’ll cover the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery.

Physics this year was Heat, Light and Sound. He loved doing experiments!

Physics this year was Heat, Light and Sound. He loved doing experiments!

Geology was a bit of a slog for him, definitely not his favourite subject. But he did well.

Geology was a bit of a slog for him, definitely not his favourite subject. But he did well.

Part of Physics was spent on the phenomenon of colour and Addison has struggled with colour identification his whole life. I decided to skim the topic and instead gave him some exercises to experience the different colours in depth. A week was spent on each painting, beginning with primary colours, moving into secondary, and ending with complimentary. The topic was his to choose, and often the form grew organically. The purple naturally evolved into such drama.

Part of Physics was spent on the phenomenon of colour and Addison has struggled with colour identification his whole life. I decided to skim the topic and instead gave him some exercises to experience the different colours in depth. A week was spent on each painting, beginning with primary colours, moving into secondary, and ending with complimentary. The topic was his to choose, and often the form grew organically. The purple naturally evolved into such drama.

time at home.

All of a sudden it’s the middle of June.

Frost persisted here until a couple of weeks ago so we persisted in not planting the garden, and then all of a sudden this past weekend became our last free one until August and the plot needed to be readied for seeding or it wasn’t going to be planted at all.

The upshot?

Kevin brought home an auger on Friday afternoon to drill fence post holes with. While we had the machine we went post hole happy. A lean-to behind the shop and firewood shelter (seen here) were prepped.

Kevin brought home an auger on Friday afternoon to drill fence post holes with. While we had the machine we went post hole happy. A lean-to behind the shop and firewood shelter (seen here) were prepped.

A year's worth of renovation/bigger household garbage was hauled to the dump and a few dozen posts were picked up on the way home. A friend of ours works for a logging company and he offered us some of the unusable (to him) pieces for our fence.

A year’s worth of renovation/bigger household garbage was hauled to the dump and a few dozen posts were picked up on the way home. A friend of ours works for a logging company and he offered us some of the unusable (to him) pieces for our fence.

On Saturday evening the boy helped stand 33 posts in the holes Kevin and I had drilled earlier.

On Saturday evening the boy helped stand 33 posts in the holes Kevin and I had drilled earlier.

320 linear feet of fencing went up on Sunday morning.

320 linear feet of fencing went up on Sunday morning.

We built a gate...

We built a gate…

... and hung it.

… and hung it.

Inside tasks happened too.

When the rain started coming down in earnest and Kevin and I retreated into the kitchen to fill the crock with cabbage. The sauerkraut will be ready to eat in a month or so.

When the rain started coming down in earnest and Kevin and I retreated into the kitchen to fill the crock with cabbage. The sauerkraut will be ready to eat in a month or so.

And I gave Kevin and the boy much-needed haircuts.

And I gave Kevin and the boy much-needed haircuts.

It may seem like a lot of work was done to the exclusion of all else. To the contrary. Kevin and I are admittedly very focused when it comes to work around the house, which means that there was time left over to watch a couple of episodes of All Creatures Great and Small and play a family game together.

Next up for us is a trip out west for a few days, then a weekend violin exam for the boy and then we’ll be back in the park for 5 days. It’s going to be a long stretch off the water.

But at least the bugs are bad enough to make the craving lessen somewhat.

one portage weekend.

And smartly so.

It’s officially bug season in Algonquin.

The blackfly contingent was only a smidgeon of the army that attacked us on the 1600m trail from Rain Lake to McCraney. The mosquitoes were nothing short of amazing. I see now that we were only attacked by the scouting party two weekends ago; this was the real deal. We covered the 9k to our campsite in 1.5 hours, motoring along the portage clothed head-to-toe with jackets cinched around wrists and faces. Poor Kevin had his face exposed under the canoe and swarms of the blighters  kept dive bombing him and he had no hands free to brush them off with. At least he’s got leathery skin. (Note to self: pack bug jackets in June).

Untangling the fishing line while the boy learned to cast was a major theme of the weekend

Untangling the fishing line while the boy learned to cast was a major theme of the weekend.

A brief exchange with the leader of a flotilla of 7 canoes on Sunday yielded this gem: After I suggested that the portages build character at this time of year he came out with a strained “And bring out character.” Awesome.

I think Addison was surprised I could cast the line without tangling it

I think Addison was surprised I could cast the line without tangling it.

The rewards came in time. We camped on an island so the mosquitoes were few and far between and there were no blackflies. We spent Saturday sunning ourselves on the rocks and fishing and napping. It was somewhat hard to sit still, but going into the woods for a hike was out of the question so we sank into the groove of mellow. The boy swam, Kevin and I played Cribbage, and we found interesting bugs, including this mating pair of weevils.

Need I say anything??? The beauty of nature in springtime.

Need I say anything??? The beauty of nature in springtime.

The perfect spot for a Sunday breakfast.

The perfect spot for a Sunday breakfast.

It’s a catch 22, going out into the woods all the time. It doesn’t really increase my workload at home because we travel so lightly and it’s part of our norm, but it accentuates the amount of work I do in the day to day. When we’re out there I can’t slip into lesson prep, and the sourdough culture doesn’t need tending. The household accounts need no attention because we’re not spending money and I don’t have to think about meal prep because it’s already done. At home there’s the constant barrage of tasks and, as I said to Kevin last night, sometimes the have-to’s get me down. But, happily enough, my principles and my reality are aligned.

I’m relieved to be where I am now and not where I was 5 years ago. I’ll take Algonquin bugs and household overwhelm over a wheelchair any day.

Bliss.

Bliss.

when the child’s away…

…the parents are free to do, well, any number of things.

Kevin and I chose to do a repeat of a trip we did last fall but didn’t record. Which is why I’m setting it down now. I’m almost embarrassed to write this trip report but the necessity is obvious because well, we did it again.

The route saw us go in at the Tim River and paddle down it for 30 k, through Tim Lake and Rosebary Lake, before camping for the night on Shah Lake (bottom right corner of the map, just north of Misty). The next day saw us paddle and portage 34 k out through Misty, Little Trout, Ralph Bice, and Iagoo.

The trip down the river was pleasant, 7.5 hours of meandering through moose habitat and spotting a handful (read: 8, including a tiny calf).

She wouldn't move. Our canoe came within 2 metres of where she stood.

She wouldn’t move. Our canoe came within 2 metres of where she stood.

Two young bulls on the river between Tim Lake and Rosebary

Two young bulls on the river between Tim Lake and Rosebary

The water was higher than when we did it last time so we managed to paddle the whole way without hitting the bank once (it’s a really, really tightly wound river that’s actually more of a creek). We were disappointed when our portage into Shah showed up we were having so much fun!

Bushes in the face or loose control of the boat? I'll take bushes in the face, thank you.

Bushes in the face or loose control of the boat? I’ll take bushes in the face, thank you.

Day two was hell. The 12-hour day wasn’t the issue. Oh no, it would have been a lovely day if it weren’t for the 40k headwinds that brought 2 foot swells and reduced our paddling time by half and the swarms (I mean swarms) of blackflies and mosquitoes on the portages.

A mayfly hitches a ride across Ralph Bice Lake

A mayfly hitches a ride across Ralph Bice Lake

As I swatted swarms out of my face and forced my body up hill after hill, through swamp after swamp on portage after portage I began to ponder the reason for doing what we do. Yes, there’s the physical benefit and yes, I have really beautiful shoulders and leg muscles but the point goes deeper. The psychological barriers that we overcome on a trip like this are enormous. “I can’t” does not exist because one simply must. The pictures below were taken at Iagoo Lake at 4 pm or so, 9 hours into the day and past the worst of the bugs and winds. Do I look like I’m suffering? Oh, the pain is so easily forgotten out there.

Without the boy along Kevin and I get irresponsible on the food front because we can. Supper ended up being peanut butter and jam on a spoon while we sought refuge from mosquitoes on Iagoo Lake

Without the boy along Kevin and I get irresponsible on the food front because we can. Supper ended up being peanut butter and jam on a spoon while we sought refuge from mosquitoes on Iagoo Lake

Peanut butter is very sticky in the mouth...

Peanut butter is very sticky…

The beauty holds me out on the water and on the paths that connect one lake to another.

I gain perspective and the importance I place on tiling the mudroom floor or rebuilding the kitchen or tidying up the yard fades into something less and less urgent and the eternal nature of trees, stones and water bring my humanity into check as something transient and fleeting.

I’m put in my place.